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TikTok car thefts continue; CA attorney general wants federal action

Some models of Kia and Hyundai vehicles are vulnerable to an ignition hack that's the focus of a recent TikTok challenge. Kia has offered a solution, but AG Rob Bonta says it's not enough.
kia (file)
Posted at 4:56 PM, Apr 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-21 01:08:53-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Walking outside to find your car gone is a rising problem for thousands of Kia and Hyundai vehicle owners. On Thursday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta says it's time to get the federal government involved.

Finding your car to be stolen is a recent experience for Bakersfield resident Angela Winters. She says it was just a week prior that her 2017 Kia Rio was stolen right out from in front of her home. Winters said it took 4 people just 60 seconds to steal her car, and now she's left with hundreds of dollars in damage.

"It had over $8,000 dollars worth of damage in the 7 hours that they had my car," said Winters. "The inside of the vehicle when I first got it back, as you can see, there's all kinds of broken glass, they ripped out all the steering column. This is thousands of dollars worth of damage."

angela winters
Bakersfield resident Angela Winters' Kia Rio was stolen from her driveway.

Winters says she believes this is all happening because of a TikTok challenge.

"My car was started with a phone charger, and from what I'm aware, Kia is aware that there is these people, and how easily stolen these vehicles are," said Winters.

Kia, for their part, is offering their customers a solution, installing new security software that they say will eliminate the vulnerability.

According to Kia, they've notified owners across the country about the free software upgrade, and have also made steering wheel locks available through any local law enforcement agencies who are interested in distributing them.

Winters says she wasn't able to get a free lock locally.

"I went to the Bakersfield Police station and requested a steering wheel lock due to my car being stolen and they had no idea what I was talking about," said Winters.

This is why Bonta says he is taking action to help address this ongoing issue.

"Hyundai and Kia have left us no choice but to call on the federal government to either order a mandatory recall or work with the companies to institute a voluntary recall of the affected vehicles," said Bonta.

bonta talks about kia hyundai thefts
California Attorney General Rob Bonta held a press conference on Thursday, April 20 to address the issue of Kia and Hyundai's security vulnerabilities.

Additionally, Bonta says the solutions the manufacturers are offering are not enough.

"One month ago, I, along with 22 other attorneys general, we sent Hyundai and we sent Kia a letter outlining our concerns and urging them to take immediate further corrective action," said Bonta. "The software updates they have offered up to now, they are not sufficient."

Winters says it simply isn't fair that she's now being inconvenienced.

"Like I said, completely out of my control. I did nothing wrong. I've parked my vehicle here for 3 years without a single incident," said Winters.

As of right now, Winters says the auto shop is telling her it will take at least 3 weeks to get her car back, but she says once it's returned, she believes her car is still at risk of being stolen., adding that she believes it's time to make a change.

"For thousands of people to have to go through what I went through because of some stupid challenge on TikTok makes no sense. They must come out of pocket," said Winters. "They must fix the issue."


Taking an in-depth look into the issue of car thefts, as the numbers show, it definitely hits home.

According to a September 2022 report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Bakersfield is the city with the most car thefts in the nation for three years running.

The city has a rate of over 1,000 auto thefts per 100,000 residents.

As for overall numbers nationwide, California ranks third in the country when it comes to auto theft rates, behind only Washington DC and Colorado.