Police say Northern Virginia car thieves target Hyundai, Kia models amid TikTok trend

Car thieves are finding new ways to steal automobiles and now many of them brag about it on social media.

In Virginia, Fairfax County police said thieves appear to be targeting Hyundai and Kia vehicles as officers have been responding to a growing number of calls for stolen or damaged cars.



Specifically, car thieves are stealing 2010 through 2021 models, which use a mechanical key — not a key fob and push button — to start a vehicle.

Recently, thieves, who are often teenagers, have posted videos to TikTok demonstrating that by inserting a USB cable into a broken steering column, they can hotwire an engine. In the past, thieves have used a screwdriver to accomplish the illegal task.

Fairfax County police said officer took two dozen reports for stolen Hyundai vehicles and 13 reports for stolen Kia automobiles between Nov. 22, 2022 and Jan. 17, 2023.

A class action lawsuit against both automakers was filed in California, claiming Hyundai and Kia manufacture cars without an engine immobilizer.

“Engine immobilizers are critical, yet inexpensive anti-theft devices that prevent cars from being hot-wired, which have been used by virtually every car manufacturer over the last twenty years – except Kia and Hyundai. The first patent for an engine immobilizer was granted in 1919,” according to a Sept. 2022 news release announcing the lawsuit.

Hyundai is planning to release a software update in March for affected vehicles and Kia is developing and testing security software, according to Bloomberg News. Both automakers are making steering-wheel locks available to customers with vulnerable cars.

The suggestion from Fairfax County police: “If you own a 2010-2021 Hyundai or Kia, contact a dealership to see what advanced auto prevention tools are available to you.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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