Hyundai and Kia Have a Car Theft Solution

  • The Kia Challenge social media trend has cranked up car thefts on certain models of Hyundai and Kia models.
  • Hyundai and Kia have issued an update to help protect affected key-to-start vehicles from 2011 to 2022 model years.
  • The update includes a software solution to help stop thieves from taking these cars.

    If you stay off social media, you may have missed a handful of weird dance crazes, memes, and cultural touchstones that won’t affect your daily life in the slightest. But there are a handful of objectively bad trends sweeping the nation.

    For example, a viral trend of young car thieves targeting Kias and Hyundais has resulted in State Farm Insurance declining to issue new insurance policies for certain models of those brands. Meanwhile, Kia and Hyundai are rolling out a national service campaign to protect the vehicles and prevent additional theft pinned to the so-called Kia Challenge.

    A group of teenagers working under the Kia Boyz hashtag discovered that certain Kia and Hyundai models were extremely easy to steal, and they began documenting the thefts on the social media platform TikTok. For a first hand look at the thieves and how they operate, check out the documentary at the top of the page.

    Owners of Hyundais and Kias have reported their cars being stolen and returned multiple times. Making the matter worse is that the cars targeted by this growing trend aren’t equipped with immobilizers. While an immobilizer doesn’t exactly stop car thefts, these electronic tools do throw a wouldbe thief a curveball when trying to manually overpower the car’s ignition switch. Judging by the guides easily available on various social media outlets, that seems to be the way these Kia and Hyundai products have been stolen.

    As you’d expect from a social media trend, the Kia and Hyundai thefts have spiked across the nation, leading State Farm Insurance to block new customers in Georgia, Louisiana, Oregon, Washington and Pennsylvania. About the situation, a representative from State farm sent the following note to Autoweek:

    State Farm has temporarily stopped accepting new customer applications in some states for certain model years and trim levels of Hyundai and Kia vehicles because theft losses for these vehicles have increased dramatically. This is a serious problem impacting our customers and the entire auto insurance industry.

    We take seriously our responsibility to manage risk and the impact of excess claim costs on all our customers. In this case, it became necessary to take action to protect our policyholders and our business.

    We are monitoring this situation very closely and will adjust our approach as appropriate.

    In response, the team at Kia recently sent this:

    Kia America regrets this decision by certain insurers and its impact on owners and lessees of select Kia vehicles, which we anticipate will be temporary. Engine immobilizers are now standard on all Kia vehicles and have always been standard equipment on Kia vehicles with push-button ignitions.

    Additionally, Kia has taken a series of actions to reduce the claim frequencies associated with affected vehicles. Kia has been developing and testing enhanced security software for vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer and has started notifying owners of certain models of the availability of this software upgrade at no cost to consumers. Kia anticipates that it will make software upgrades available for most affected vehicles by mid-2023. Kia is also continuing to provide free steering wheel locks, as available, to interested law enforcement agencies across the country for distribution to local residents who own or lease affected models.

    Kia owners with questions regarding their vehicle may contact our Customer Care team directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia) or online via the Owners Portal on

    Since sending that note, Kia and Hyundai have both launched campaigns for most of the affected vehicles. The software upgrade, to be performed by dealers, will now make these applicable Kia and Hyundai models trigger the alarm and what the company calls an “ignition kill” system when you use the keyfob to lock your doors.

    The Hyundai brand says 4 million of its vehicles are affected, from 2011 Elantras, Tucsons, and Sonatas to 2022 Accents, Konas, and Santa Fes. Nearly the entire Hyundai lineup is impacted. The software upgrade will be available first for 2017-2020 Elantra, 2015-2019 Sonata, and 2020-2021 Venue vehicles. Hyundai says the installation work will take less than one hour, and each vehicle will get a window decal to alert potential thieves that enhanced anti-theft technology is now onboard.

    Unlocking the car with the fob is apparently the only way to deactivate that feature. According to NHTSA, the software update will also increase the length of the alarm. For the models that this update won’t affect, Hyundai notes it’s working on a program to reimburse those customers for steering wheel locks. Of course, it might also be in their interest to research other systems to immobilize their cars in case of theft.

    This fix won’t immediately solve the problem for Kia and Hyundai customers, because it’s rolling out in phases over the coming months. But if you own one of these affected vehicles, this might help you feel more secure.

    Do you think there’s any way to stop the Kia Challenge? Tell us your thoughts below.

    Wesley Wren has spent his entire life around cars, whether it’s dressing up as his father’s 1954 Ford for Halloween as a child, repairing cars in college or collecting frustrating pieces of history—and most things in between.

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