Social media can be a great way to promote your brand — until you face criticism and legal threats over a viral trend.
There’s a good and bad side to everything, including social media. Kia and Hyundai (HYMTF) owners are increasingly becoming victims of the ugly side of viral trends.
The “Kia Challenge” is the latest viral trend being shared millions of times on TikTok and YouTube (GOOGL) – Get Alphabet Inc. Report, showing anyone who would care to know a relatively easy way to steal certain models from Kia and Hyundai.
Zoomers participating in the challenge steal the vehicles using just a USB cable.
The trend became so popular that police in St. Petersburg, Fla., said during a period in July that half the 56 cars stolen in the city were Kia/Hyundai model years 2021 and older that used key fobs to start.
The trend reportedly started in Milwaukee, but thanks to the power of social media it is now national, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Police Department issued a community alert over the “Kia Challenge.”
Kia and Hyundai comprised almost 13% of all vehicle thefts in the city last year. In 2022, they account for 20% of all thefts in the city, according to KTLA.
Cities Fight Back
Cities and citizens that have not been able to stop the problem through law enforcement now are looking to the courts.
In Iowa, Ann Brady of Poly County and Leah Price of Decatur County are suing Kia because the companies make vehicles that are “easy to steal, unsafe, and worth less than they should be,” the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported.
Meanwhile, St. Louis has said that if the companies don’t do something about the thefts by Sept. 19, the city will be filing a lawsuit against them.
“With this letter, the city demands that Kia and Hyundai mitigate the defective conditions providing thieves – including teenagers as young as 13 – the instrumentalities by which they are destroying property, endangering city drivers and themselves, and, in some cases, committing violent felonies,” City Counselor Sheena Hamilton wrote in an Aug. 19 letter to the companies, KSDK reported.
“Kia and Hyundai’s defective vehicles have caused a public safety crisis in the city, endangering the health, safety, and peace of all those who live, work or visit the city. Your companies bear the responsibility to mitigate the public nuisance your negligence has created for the city and its residents,” the letter said.
“We recently received the letter from the City of St. Louis and are preparing a formal response. Our vehicles are not defective and comply with all applicable safety regulations,” the company said in response to the lawsuit, KSDK reported.
“While no car can be made theft-proof, criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key and “turn-to-start” ignition system. The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and “push-button-to-start” system, making them more difficult to steal,” Kia said in a statement to TheStreet.
Hyundai told CBS Sacramento that the company would start selling security kits in October. Meanwhile, Kia says it has provided the Club, a security device from the late 20th century that physically locks the wheel of a vehicle, to police departments in affected areas.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones told KDSK that the only way to avoid the lawsuit is for the companies to initiate a recall of all the affected vehicles and install the immobilizing technology that could thwart some of this activity.
More than 1,800 Hyundais and Kias have been stolen in the city in 2022. But to crystallize just how trendy this problem has become, about two-thirds (1,200) of those thefts have come in the months of July and August alone.
In July, the city averaged 21 Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts a day. At this time last year, just 183 Hyundais and Kias had been reported stolen in St. Louis.