Feb 14, 2023 - Economy

Hyundai and Kia offer anti-theft software following TikTok challenge

Kia vehicles at a Hyundai facility in South Korea.

Kia vehicles parked in a lot in South Korea. Photo: Seung-il Ryu/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Hyundai and Kia are releasing new "theft deterrent software" for more than 8 million vehicles in response to a viral social media trend, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The software comes after a recent challenge on TikTok encouraged thieves to target these vehicles, which the NHTSA says has resulted in at least 14 crashes and eight deaths.

Driving the news: The software, which will be available t0 around 8.3 million vehicles in the U.S., will update the car's software to make the alarm stretch from 30 seconds to one minute, the NHTSA said in a press release.

  • The new software also requires the key to be in the ignition to turn the car on.
  • Both Kia and Hyundai plan to roll out the software update in a phased approach later this month, with more phases in the next few months.
  • Hyundai also plans to offer car window stickers to alert thieves that the car has anti-theft protection, according to the NHTSA.

Context: The social media challenge encourages users, including young teens, to steal vehicles by breaking into the car, removing part of the steering wheel column and then starting it with a USB cable, per CNBC.

  • The challenge is spreading on TikTok through the hashtag “Kia Boys," which has more than 75 million views on the platform.
  • TikTok said in a statement to the Washington Post that it "does not condone this behavior which violates our policies and will be removed if found on our platform."
  • The social media company did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Zoom out: The challenge and the associated thefts have been making waves nationwide. Progressive and State Farm have stopped offering insurance policies for some Hyundai and Kia vehicles due to the recent trend, USA Today reports.

  • Seattle recently sued the carmakers, alleging Kia and Hyundai did not equip cars with anti-theft technology.
  • Authorities in Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago, issued a warning to residents there after seeing a "dramatic rise in thefts," too.
  • "Obviously, it's a real problem," Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told the Buffalo News.

Go deeper: Thieves across America are stealing Hyundais and Kias in seconds

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