Thefts of vehicles manufactured by Kia and Hyundai surged 767% in July compared to the same month last year as nationwide phenomena known as “Kia boys” and the “Kia challenge” took hold in Cook County, according to the sheriff’s office.
Many thieves are taking advantage of a design flaw that allows them to steal Kias and Hyundais with little more than a USB cord, and some are then posting their joyrides on social media.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement that there were 642 Kia and Hyundai thefts in the county last month, up from 74 in July 2021. In Chicago proper, total auto thefts are up 54% this year, with over 8,500 cases reported as of August 7, according to CPD.
“This is an extremely concerning trend and the public needs to know so they can be vigilant in protecting themselves,” Sheriff Tom Dart said in the media release.
The thieves target unoccupied cars that normally operate with a physical key and not a starter button, the office said. Then, using easy-to-find instructions online, they start the vehicle in a matter of seconds and drive away.
Dart’s office advised owners of vulnerable vehicles to install after-market security measures like kill switches, motion-detecting car alarms, vehicle tracking systems, or steering wheel locks.
Last week, lawyers in Iowa filed a federal class action suit against Kia and Hyundai on behalf of car owners whose vehicles are affected by the defect.