In 2022, a trend swept TikTok, the social media network that remains one of the world’s most downloaded apps. It was called the Kia Challenge, and it encouraged viewers to exploit a vulnerability existing in older Kia/Hyundai vehicles, making it easy to steal the car. A Verisk data analysis found that the trend was linked to an increase in motor vehicle thefts targeting Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
We found that the trend was linked to an increase in motor vehicle thefts targeting Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
The warning signs were already there. In December of 2021, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) had previously issued a bulletin stating that “Hyundai and Kia have lagged behind other manufacturers” in equipping their vehicles with standard passive immobilizing antitheft devices. Only 26 percent of Kia and Hyundai vehicles made between 2015-2019 had these immobilizers, compared to 96 percent of all other car makes combined.
By 2021, the HLDI was noticing that claim frequencies and overall losses were twice as high as they had been in 2019, and that Hyundai and Kia theft claim frequencies and overall losses were approximately over 30 times higher in 2021 compared with 2019 in Wisconsin and over 10 times higher in Colorado.
How Verisk helped
At Verisk, we have access to an industry-leading treasure trove of data. We are uniquely positioned to analyze the market, providing valuable context to insurers—helping them benchmark against competitors, decide how to best assist their policyholders, set rates, and more. That’s why we were happy to assist when customers asked us to investigate.
We examined the Comprehensive experience of Kia and Hyundai vehicles and compared it to the experience of other automobile makes beginning in January 2020, and found that theft was markedly higher for these vehicles. Loss experience for Hyundai and Kia vehicles started to deteriorate in 4th quarter 2021, and in the two months after the Tik Tok trend, the losses’ frequency increased to 6 times higher than they were in 2019.
By 2021, 78% of these cars were newly equipped with passive immobilizers, but a number of these older vehicles are still in use, putting their drivers at risk. Both Kia and Hyundai have issued steps to mitigate this. Hyundai has a free anti-theft software update that can be downloaded at any dealership. If the vehicle doesn't support the software update, Hyundai will provide reimbursement for wheel lock purchases. Kia is offering a similar software, while we at Verisk will be monitoring the situation and providing updates accordingly.