Hyundai, Kia Offer Old-Tech Solution to Hi-Tech TikTok Car Theft Epidemic


Sometimes the oldest and simplest solutions are the best. And sometimes they’re the only ones that work. 

Which is why Hyundai Motor Co. is giving away 1980s-style steering wheel locks in a desperate attempt to tackle a car theft epidemic fueled by viral TikTok videos.

The TikTok videos showing how easy it is to steal many Hyundais and Kias because they aren’t fitted with electronic engine immobilizers have to led hundreds, if not thousands of people, including those with no previous history of car crime, to have a go themselves at boosting Korean cars, and the fallout is colossal.

Some insurance companies are refusing to cover certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles built before November 2021, when engine immobilizers became standard, and one police department claimed 80% of the vehicles stolen in its district last year were either Kias or Hyundais, Bloomberg reported.

Hyundai Motor said it has already rolled out a theft-prevention software upgrade to 1 million drivers and will extend the offer to another 3 million in the coming weeks. But that’s still several weeks of worrying about whether your car is going to be there when you leave the house in the morning, so Hyundai is offering free steering locks and will reimburse anyone who has already purchased one.

That’s not going to be enough to calm the outrage from innocent parties resulting from the thefts. The attorneys general from 23 states have written to Kia and Hyundai accusing them of moving too slowly to remedy the situation, and both Seattle and St. Louis are suing the automakers for their role in the chaos.

There’s a perverse irony in a company that has been such a trailblazer for tech in relatively affordable cars, one that brought 400-volt charging and camera-based door mirrors to regular drivers, having to resort to such a basic, old-fashioned and very mechanical solution.

The steering wheel locks aren’t infallible, one of the reasons we all stopped using them, along with them being a pain to fit, remove and store. The locks themselves might be tough, but the steering wheels aren’t. I knew a few car thieves back in the early 1990s when this kind of security system was normal and a quick snip through the steering wheel rim with a set of bolt cutters was all it took to get rid of the lock. But shhh, don’t let the TikTok crowd know.

We thank CarScoops for reprint permission.

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