ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A TikTok challenge from last year is still causing problems for owners of Kia and Hyundai cars, after online videos showed thieves how to steal them.
Nathan Bjornbak, who lives in Rockford’s Edgewater neighborhood, said he took his dog for a walk last week and came back to find his car, a blue 2011 Hyundai Sonata, was gone.
“Somebody took it from right in front of my house,” he said. “It was locked and it wasn’t running.”
Hyundai and Kia models from 2011 to 2020 have a manufacturing defect that makes them easy for criminals to steal using only a cellphone and a USB cord.
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Some insurance companies, such as Progressive and State Farm, are not insuring the cars anymore because of the high risk of theft.
New 2022 Kia and Hyundai models have an engine immobilizer to help prevent thefts.
“People need to know that this is happening and that it is a real issue,” Bjornbak said. “If you’ve got a Hyundai or Kia, your vehicle is at risk, 100%.”
Bjornbak believes the so-called Kia Boyz are to blame for his car being stolen, but says he never thought it would happen in his own driveway.
Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd admitted at a recent press conference on local crime that car thefts were up last year and Kia and Hyundai thefts are an issue of concern across the country.
Car thefts in Rockford went from 477 in 2021 to 783 in 2022.
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“The number is just astronomically high, by large and far due to manufacturer defects in some vehicles, where that it makes them really easy to steal,” she said.
Bjornbak hopes police will be able to find his car, but he says he’ll never buy a Hyundai or Kia car again.
“They could fix all the problems [that] are known with them and I’ll still never buy them again,” he said. “And if there comes up a class action, or a chance to sue for the money I’m out for my car, yeah, I probably will take that opportunity.”
Police encourage owners of the affected models to invest in a steering wheel lock or auto start system.