Car thefts rise as Kia Challenge hits Charlotte

Car thefts rise as Kia Challenge hits Charlotte

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Theft of Kia and Hyundai vehicles has skyrocketed in Charlotte in recent months, mirroring a national trend that began on TikTok.

By the numbers: Since June 20, there have been 156 reported Kia and Hyundai auto theft incidents, according to data from CMPD. This is a 346% increase from the 35 incidents reported during the same timeframe last year.

  • So far this year (through Aug. 7), there have been 243 reported incidents of Kia and Hyundai thefts combined, compared to 144 last year during same timeframe, representing a 69% increase.

“We believe the increase to be a result of a certain social media challenge in which thieves are circumventing the ignition and stealing the car without a key (2008 Kia’s and newer),” CMPD spokesperson Amanda Aycock said in an email.

Why it matters: The trend has become dangerous when bystanders are hit or killed as a result of thieves’ reckless driving.

In many of the recovered vehicles in Charlotte, CMPD has noticed suspects break rear passenger windows and remove the steering column to gain access to the ignition, Aycock added.

  • The most common vehicles being stolen in Charlotte (in order), per CMPD: Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Soul, Kia Optima, Kia Rio, Kia Forte, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Accent, Hyundai Santa Fe.

Zoom out: The TikTok challenge, which began in June, has led to an increase in stolen Kias and Hyundais (they’re owned by the same company) nationwide. As part of the viral trend, users post instructional videos with steps on how to steal a car using only a USB charging cable, Insider reports.

  • In Kia models from 2011-2021 and Hyundai models from 2015-2021, system flaws exist that allow people to bypass the ignition and start the car by removing the steering column, the Miami Herald reported.

Some of the videos show the thieves, called “Kia Boyz” joyriding in the stolen cars and/or crashing them, per Insider.

  • The problem is so bad in Denver that Progressive, a major auto insurer, is not selling coverage for certain Hyundai and Kia cars in the area, per Denver7.
  • You can deter thieves by locking your car, getting a steering wheel lock and parking another car behind yours in the driveway.

In Charlotte, dealerships Axios contacted either declined to comment or said they didn’t sell enough Kia and Hyundai vehicles to detect a trend among affected customers.

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