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East Windsor police issue warning about Hyundai and Kia car theft challenge

Shelton police report all 6 stolen vehicles in town since Saturday have been Kias or Hyundais
Credit: Hyundai Motors
2018 Hyundai Elantra

EAST WINDSOR, Conn. — Shelton police reported Tuesday that in the past three days, all six of the stolen vehicles in town have been either Kias or Hyundais. 

On Monday, East Windsor police issued a warning to residents about a social media post that purportedly demonstrates how easy it is to steal certain late model Hyundais and Kias. They said the theft of a car Sunday may have been part of the nationwide trend. 

In a viral post on Tik Tok, a user asked two masked and hooded men to explain how they steal the cars. The duo, since dubbed "The KIA Boyz," explain how they can steal a brand new KIA or Hyundai in fewer than 10 minutes — using nothing but a screwdriver and a USB charging cable.

Early Tuesday morning, police arrested a juvenile driving a stolen Hyundai after vehicle break-in attempts were reported. Police charged him with larceny and burglary among other crimes. 

Police in East Windsor said in a Facebook post on Monday, "These vehicle model years are ones without a push-button start and are vulnerable to the technique being used by thieves. It appears this may have happened yesterday when a vehicle was stolen while the owner was shopping at Walmart."

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Owners across the country are complaining about the problem. A class action suit filed last year by residents from Wisconsin has since seen vehicle owners from Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, and Texas join on.

The plaintiffs in the case allege that the companies knowingly produced vehicles that are "easy to steal, unsafe and worth less than they should be."

East Windsor police suggested the following tips to protect your vehicle:

  • Use a theft prevention tool, such as a steering wheel lock.
  • Park in your garage, if possible, or in well-lighted areas.
  • Keep your doors locked at all times.
  • Remove valuables from your car.
  • Activate alarm systems.

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Hyundai Motor Company is based in Seoul, South Korea. Hyundai owns a controlling interest in Kia. Their cars share many features and have similar equipment. Both have manufacturing plants in the United States. 

KIA released a statement in response, saying:

"KIA America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim levels. All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change. All KIA vehicles for sale in the U.S. meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards."

One suit filed in Southern Iowa District Court claims that the companies “admit there is a theft and safety problem with these vehicles but refuses to fix them, compensate consumers or otherwise take actions” to remedy the issue."

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However, it is important to note that only vehicles with physical keys can be stolen using this method. Models that have "touch to start" features or digital keys are not affected.

According to court documents, attorneys for the automakers claim that "warranties do not cover situations in which a vehicle owner or lessee simply prefers an alternative material or an alternative design, as a different preference is not a defect — the so-called defect at issue here — the possibility of theft — is simply not covered by either Kia or Hyundai’s express warranty."

The issue is caused by a lack of an "immobilizer system," which is a piece of hardware that keeps the engine from starting unless the proper key is recognized. This means that mainly 2011-2021 KIA's and Hyundai's manufactured between 2015 and 2021 are targeted.

Both KIA and Hyundai claim that any model manufactured after 2022 is equipped with an immobilizer system.

Information from KGW TV is included in this story. 

Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

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