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Can the ‘Kia Boys’ steal your Hyundai or Kia SUV?

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You may have heard about a recent spike in Hyundai and Kia thefts due to some viral social media posts on the so-called “Kia Boys.” If you haven’t, let me put you on notice: If you own a Kia or Hyundai SUV with a keyed-in ignition, your vehicle is at increased risk of being stolen.

Specifically, according to a law suit filed on August 4 against Hyundai Motor America and Kia America, Kia and Hyundai vehicles built from 2011 to 2021 are at risk because they were designed without engine immobilizers.

Both Hyundai Motor America and Kia America confirmed vehicles without immobilizers are, in fact, being targeted. Hyundai stated that immobilizers became standard on all its vehicles produced after November 1, 2021, and Kia stated all 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied.

Who are the Kia Boys?

YouTuber Tommy G does an in-depth look at the so-called Kia Boys, showing the effects of their theft rampages – both in the streets and to the victims. The Kia Boys, originally located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are just teenagers, yet they’re credited with stealing more than 10,000 vehicles in 2021 alone. And how do they do it? They simply take the plastic off the steering column then use a charger piece to start the car.

Say what? Yep, it’s all there at about the 13.30 point on Tommy G’s video.

Talk about gone in 60 seconds.

What’s more, though this started in Wisconsin, due to the virality of social media, this trend is spreading like wildfire throughout the U.S., and most major cities have been noticing spikes in stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

We reached out to both Hyundai and Kia, and execs said the companies are aware of the problem and working to protect customers.

So, how do you protect your vehicle?

The easiest way to protect your Hyundai or Kia vehicle is to use a steering wheel lock, like this one from Winner International on Amazon.

In an official statement, Hyundai says: “In order to assist customers with earlier model year vehicles without an immobilizer, Hyundai has been working with and will continue to support local police departments to make steering wheel locks available for affected Hyundai owners. Additionally, Hyundai has identified a Firstech / Compustar security kit that targets the method of entry thieves are using to access these vehicles.”

Furthermore, this security kit will be available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar authorized installers beginning October 1, 2022.

Kia’s statement mirrors Hyundai’s regarding the wheel lock, but makes no mention of a security kit: “Kia America has provided steering wheel lock devices at no cost to law enforcement in affected areas to deter vandalism and theft. That effort will continue in close coordination with local police departments for distribution to concerned owners of Kia vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer.”

If you have more questions about your vehicle, you can contact Hyundai’s customer service line at 800-633-5151 or Kia’s at 800-333-4542.

The bottom line on the Kia Boys, stolen vehicles

This is one of those “do not pass Go; do not collect $200” scenarios. If you own a Kia or Hyundai vehicle that pre-dates the immobilizer, get a wheel lock now. Even if the “trend” hasn’t hit your neighborhood yet, it probably will – and soon.

It’s also good practice not to leave anything valuable or visible in your vehicle to attract the eye of wannabe thieves. And if you have the option to park in a garage, do that.

But, srsly, wheel lock. Now.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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