It’s no secret that a wave of Kia and Hyundai thefts have overtaken many parts of the nation following a reckless challenge on TikTok and other social media platforms that exploits a design flaw certain vehicles from the Korean carmakers. Under the hashtag “Kia Boyz”, users have shared videos teaching people how to steal certain 2010-2021 Kia and Hyundai models lacking an immobilizer system with only a screwdriver and a USB cord and then challenged them to do the same.
Now, after a number of civil lawsuits against the two Korean automakers, it appears that the city of St. Louis is close to filing one of its own. Throughout the year, auto thefts in St. Louis have doubled, with the city reporting an average of 21 Kia and Hyundai thefts a day in June, with the number rising to 23 a day in August, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis isn’t alone, as cities across the nation including Memphis, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Grand Rapids have all made public statements about spikes in Kia and Hyundai thefts. Milwaukee even called the automakers out and said that they were “directly responsible” for the increase in thefts. However, should St. Louis file its lawsuit against the brands it would be the first city to do so.
According to a report from Fox Business, a recent letter sent to the Korean companies from St. Louis City Counselor Sheena Hamilton laid the blame squarely on the automakers. “Kia and Hyundai’s defective vehicles have caused a public safety crisis in the city, endangering the health, safety, and peace of all those who live, work or visit the city… Your companies bear the responsibility to mitigate the public nuisance your negligence has created for the city and its residents.”
Read More: Hyundai Responds To Dramatic Surge In Car Thefts And Prepares New Security Kit
According to that same letter, dated August 19th, Counselor Hamilton warned the automakers that if they failed to make “satisfactory progress to mitigate the public nuisance” she would seek to file a suit against them. As of this writing, we have yet to find any evidence that Hamilton has actually followed through with that threat.
Missouri’s Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, however, sees the solution as being something quite different. “Evidently city ‘leaders’ think it’s….the cars. Yes—car manufacturers are to blame, not criminals,” he said in a tweet that concluded with “you can’t make this stuff up.”
Hyundai and Kia for their parts have been working with law enforcement and municipalities across the country to mitigate the vulnerability to their customers. That included donating wheel lock instruments.
Now, it’s offering an aftermarket immobilizer kit that can be installed at Hyundai and Kia dealerships. Of course, it’s not free, but at least it makes theft considerably less likely.