3 min read
31 Dec
  • Ignition Cylinder Protector: Kia introduces a hardware solution to thwart social media-driven car thefts, safeguarding the ignition cylinder in targeted models.
  • Social Media Challenge Impact: Kia and Hyundai cars face thefts fueled by a viral challenge, prompting reckless joyrides shared on platforms like TikTok, raising safety concerns in various cities.
  • Kia's Security Measures: Kia adopts a dual approach, combining hardware (ignition protector) and software upgrades to counter thefts. Over 940,000 vehicles have received anti-theft software, and free steering wheel locks are distributed.

In a proactive move to counteract the surge in vehicle thefts linked to viral social media challenges, Kia America has announced the rollout of a new ignition cylinder protector aimed at fortifying the security of several of its models. This hardware-based deterrent is designed to shield the ignition cylinder from being tampered with or removed, a method of theft that has gained notoriety through instructional videos shared on various social networks. 

"Vehicle security is a top priority for Kia, and we continue to take action to support our customers by helping to protect their vehicles from thefts, which have been encouraged by content spread across social media," said Greg Silvestri, Kia America vice president of service operations. 

"Reinforcing the ignition cylinder body is the latest step to help guard against these methods of theft and we strongly encourage owners of vehicles that don't have engine immobilizers and are not able to receive our security software upgrade to have this free security measure installed." 

See also: Fortress On Wheels: The Top-10 Toughest Cars To Steal In 2023 

The Kia/Hyundai Social Media Challenge

Kia and Hyundai social media car theft challenge.

Photo credit: IndyStar

The last two years have seen reports of social media-driven thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars. The thefts have been driven by a social media challenge that encourages people to steal these car brands and post videos of their joyrides. 

These thefts have been occurring in multiple cities, and the stolen cars are often featured in reckless joyriding videos shared on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. 

The thefts are facilitated by an exploit in certain Kia and Hyundai models, particularly those made between 2010 and 2021 without a push button to start, which can be hot-wired with only a USB cable and a screwdriver. Thieves take advantage of this vulnerability to steal the cars quickly and easily. 

The stolen cars are often used for joyriding, and the perpetrators film themselves driving recklessly through city streets. This challenge has led to a significant increase in car thefts, with cities like Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Columbus, Grand Rapids, and Milwaukee reporting a high percentage of stolen Kia and Hyundai cars. 

These thefts are not only causing financial harm but also posing a risk to public safety, as the stolen cars are used for dangerous joyriding activities. The perpetrators, often young individuals, use social media to gain attention and "clout" by engaging in these criminal activities. 

Efforts are being made by law enforcement and car manufacturers to address the issue, including software upgrades and steering wheel lock giveaways to prevent further thefts. 

The Kia and Hyundai thefts have gained attention due to the "Kia Challenge," which became prevalent on social media platforms and has contributed to a rise in auto theft over the past year. The challenge has been a cause of concern for Kia and Hyundai owners, as well as law enforcement agencies across the country. 

See also: Top 10 Cars Most Prone To Theft Globally 

What Kia Is Doing To Stop Thefts

2022 Kia Soul.

The ignition cylinder protector is specifically tailored for Kia models that are not compatible with the security software update introduced by the company earlier this year. 

The automaker is implementing this physical modification as part of a free Customer Satisfaction Initiative starting December 20. Vehicles undergoing this enhancement will also receive window decals signaling the installation of the new security feature to dissuade potential thieves. 

Kia's initiative is a direct response to the challenges posed by the latest theft trends, which have increasingly exploited the weaknesses in vehicle security systems. 

The ignition cylinder protector complements the previously released software upgrade, which limits the functionality of a locked vehicle's ignition system if an unauthorized attempt is made to start the car without the proper key. 

As part of a comprehensive campaign to bolster vehicle security, Kia has successfully installed the anti-theft software upgrade in approximately 940,000 vehicles to date and has pledged to continue these efforts with additional software upgrade clinics scheduled for early 2024. 

The company has also been distributing free steering wheel locks to owners of models ineligible for the software update. These locks serve as both a physical barrier and a visual theft deterrent. 

To date, over 325,000 steering wheel locks have been issued, with ongoing distribution in collaboration with local law enforcement and community leaders. The latest security announcement follows a recent agreement by Kia to provide further assistance to customers affected by vehicle theft, including the opportunity for them to receive the ignition cylinder protector at no cost. 

Kia is engaging with owners through multiple channels, guiding them to schedule an appointment with their local dealership for the installation. For more information and to check eligibility, vehicle owners can visit Kia's support site and enter their VIN. 

Kia Models Eligible For The New Ignition Cylinder Protector

2021 Kia Rio.

Photo credit: Vauxford via Wikimedia

The following is a list of key-operated ignition system vehicle models that are eligible for the new security measures: 

  • 2011 – 2016 Kia Sportage
  • 2011 – 2016 Kia Forte
  • 2010 – 2022 Kia Soul
  • 2011 – 2021 Kia Rio
  • 2014 Kia Sedona

Kia America's latest security enhancements showcase the company's commitment to customer safety and its adaptability in addressing modern security challenges. By combining technology and physical security measures, Kia aims to provide its customers with peace of mind and reduce the risk of vehicle theft across America.

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