Bewildering Car Recall: A Wild Social Media Challenge Unleashes Chaos

The Origins of a Perplexing Phenomenon

In a bizarre twist of events, attorneys general from 17 states have been spurred into action, issuing recalls for Hyundai and Kia automobiles. The impetus? An alarming surge in thefts following a peculiar viral social media challenge on TikTok. These videos demonstrate how individuals, armed with nothing but a screwdriver and a USB cable, can kickstart specific car models.

The Missing Security Feature: Engine Immobilizers

Curiously, several Kia and Hyundai vehicles sold in the United States over the past decade lack engine immobilizers—a standard feature in most cars. These devices thwart engine ignition sans the presence of the correct key. Consequently, the absence of this fundamental component has ignited a theft pandemic.

Startling Statistics: The Impact on Cities

Los Angeles alone witnessed an 85% spike in Hyundai and Kia car thefts in 2022, accounting for a staggering 20% of the city’s total car thefts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has implicated this trend in 14 accidents and eight fatalities. South Korea-based automakers now face mounting pressure as cities like St. Louis, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego, Seattle, and Columbus, Ohio, have filed lawsuits against them.

Automakers’ Response: Software Updates vs. Recalls

Hyundai and Kia have vowed to release software updates for the affected vehicles, mandating that the key be in the ignition switch to power the car. However, this response stops short of a formal recall, which would necessitate strict reporting requirements and NHTSA oversight. Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, contends that the public remains unable to gauge the effectiveness of a company’s internal service campaign. In contrast, the NHTSA enforces quarterly reports and scrutinizes the success of recall repairs in addressing the problem.