'Kia Boys' Theft Crisis Could Have Been Prevented By A Law Canada Passed Years Ago

The Hyundai logo is displayed on a new car on the sales lot at San Leandro Hyundai on May 30, 2023 in San Leandro, California. A surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts began last year after viral videos appeared on social media sites showing how to exploit the lack of antitheft computer chips in the cars. Kia and Hyundai cars continue to be stolen more than three months after the auto manufacturers deployed software fixes to help curb the thefts

After a TikTok trend taught teens how to easily break into and steal a car built by Hyundai or Kia between 2011 and 2021, auto thefts have skyrocketed here in the United States — but you might have noticed that our neighbors up in Canada, who have very similar cars, aren’t being swept up in the Kia Boys plague. Why? Well, Canada was smart enough to design one simple regulation that make cars harder to steal, Vice reports.

Vice has been delving into the whole Hyundai/Kia theft debacle for a while now, and Jalopnik alum Aaron Gordon has repeatedly returned to one question: Why doesn’t the U.S. have this very super-simple anti-theft regulation?

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For the last three months, I’ve been trying to find an answer to a basic question at the heart of this theft wave: Why didn’t the U.S. follow Canada’s lead and mandate immobilizers, too?


This has been a very difficult question to answer. I’ve asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the U.S. regulatory agency responsible for such regulations, which only responded to written questions on background—a stipulation Motherboard didn’t agree to—and declined repeated attempts to schedule an interview. I’ve tried to talk to former NHTSA employees familiar with the rulemaking process, most of whom wouldn’t agree to speak for this story, or would only do so off the record. There are also few to no experts on anti-vehicle theft regulations in the U.S., because there is almost nothing on the books to be an expert on.

The best answer, for now, appears to be that it never occurred to anyone at NHTSA to require immobilizers.


The full story is over on Vice, and you should definitely give it a look. As with all of Gordon’s work, it’s chock full of research and history in order to understand why the U.S. wouldn’t bother to implement one of the simplest anti-theft measures in automotive history.

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