Image illustration: by The Cut; Images: Getty Images
Imagine this: It’s a wonderful Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping and you are ready for another day at the office. You get your own laptop, a homemade lunch (yes, look at your meal planning!), and of course your car keys. But inhalation! When you step outside, you see nothing but an empty parking space where you are Think You parked your car the night before. Confused, she walks up and down the block, tapping away on the main alarm, hoping to hear a familiar “beep” somewhere in the distance. But after a few episodes of mass and frantic clicking increasingly in vain, you think to yourself, Did someone steal my car?
A few weeks ago, one of my roommates in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles found herself in this unfortunate situation. Confused, we looked at the cars lined up in our row. My roommate’s Toyota Prius was parked just as I had left it the night before, and my roommate’s bright red Volkswagen was sitting pretty, basking in the morning light. Between them, however, there is a vacant parking space – the Kia Optima MIA car.
sigh. city life, I thought: the price we pay to live and repair is at the heart of it all! As a New Yorker born and raised currently navigating the hell that is first car ownership, my understanding of the frequency of car thefts was limited. But this theft seemed a little strange to me from the start: A ten-year-old Kia hardly seemed like the car to be used in a block that generally contained Tesla, Lexus, and a few Toyotas that are notorious for their accessibility. Catalytic converters. Why Kia?
Well, the answer turns out to be quite simple: TikTok.
Thanks to some seemingly flawed product designs on the part of the auto companies, stealing Kia (and Hyundai!) cars is a whole trend on the app — with a distinct sound, a hashtag that has since been removed, and a group of kids across the country calling themselves The name is “Kia Boyz” and they figured out how to break into any 2011 and later Kia (or 2015 and later Hyundai) car with a screwdriver and a USB cord. And they’re going for amusement rides (showing cakes across manicured lawns and winding highways at top speeds), photographing them, and putting them online!
not from – what or what. The Kia Boys trend, which rebounded (sorry) earlier this year, kicked off in Milwaukee in 2021 and quickly began spreading across the Midwest. This trend has now led to an increase in car thefts nationwide thanks to countless videos on TikTok and YouTube.
And like any good TikTok trend, the barrier to entry for this “challenge” is minimal. According to many, many In the videos I’ve watched, it seems as though anyone with absolutely zero experience with hot wires can sail a Kia in less than a minute. According to these tutorials, which can be found through a simple Google “Kia Boyz” search, one only needs to use a reliable screwdriver to open [redacted]crack a [redacted], and grab the USB cord, using the tip of the plug to turn on the ignition. (Like I said, it’s Google capable.) Voila! You just did your first big theft car. So simple that even I, who learned about the existence of the trigger locks for the gas pump like yesterday, can do it.
As long as TikTokers don’t run into law enforcement while feeling the wind in their hair dropping off an empty highway at 1am, these kids generally drop off cars wherever they like after they’re done. Or they’ve assembled absolutely innocent Kia’s into a DIY version of Stadium Super Trucks.
yes. Really like little kids. An 11-year-old boy in Ohio was caught stealing two cars in the span of one week. According to most reports, this trend has mostly gained traction with kids between the ages of 11 and 17, which means that the majority of Kia Boy content creators are never licensed to drive. So, not only do you need to panic at night about your lovely Kia Soul going out uninterrupted, but you can also wake up in a panic of pre-teens turning our great nation’s highway system into a fully sponsored Kia/Hyundai crash track. A real human being has obstacles.
of course not! Innocent drivers, pedestrians and Kia Boys themselves have been killed across the country while driving recklessly and while fleeing the wrath of law enforcement. This is no joke. This is dangerous. And while lives lost are, of course, more tragic than property lost, having your car stolen is clearly a really annoying thing to do.
According to statements from Kia and Hyundai, all 2022 models feature an “immobilizer”, which is a pretty standard feature against theft according to other automakers. They also encourage car owners to contact their customer help centers if they have questions or concerns about the anti-theft features of their cars. Meanwhile, TikTok released a statement saying that this behavior “categorically violates” its policies and that it will remove any content associated with the trend.
When you consider an obsession with proliferation and social media trends fueled by tech tycoons who have created algorithms that serve us perfectly designed content that not only exposes us, but encourages us (and kids!) to participate in challenges and potentially dangerous trends, I dare ask… What is the next one? A firefighting challenge? The trend of bank robbery? The adults really created a perfect storm here, he thinks.