Hyundai, Kia theft attempts at Michigan State University
EAST LANSING — Just days before Michigan State University students are set to move back into campus housing, the school's Police and Public Safety Department has issued a warning about Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts.
In an online message, the department said in the past five days there have been at least three attempted vehicle thefts from lots on campus, including Ramp 1/Shaw Lane, the Shaw Hall parking loop and Lot 5/Delta Court.
"This bulletin serves as a warning and a community reminder to make sure all motor vehicles are secured and in designated parking areas when left unattended," the department said. "Suspects appear to be targeting 2011-21 Kia and Hyundai vehicles."
The release said thieves are targeting vehicles that have not yet received a software update from the manufacturer that can deter the thefts.
"If you own one of these vehicles please go to hyundaiantitheft.com for additional information on theft prevention," the release said.
MSU Police and Public Safety also provided phone numbers: for Kia owners, call 800-333-4542 and for Hyundai owners, call 800-633-5151.
Students are expected to move into on-campus housing from Aug. 22-29 with classes at the Division 1 school beginning Aug. 28.
In addition to the theft attempts at MSU, numerous vehicle thefts have been reported across the Lansing area.
Earlier this year, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined officials in 17 states urging the companies to recall the vehicles because of the ease with which they are stolen. Nessel noted in a release that in Detroit in 2022, there were nearly 1,000 stolen Kias and just under 500 Hyundais. In Grand Rapids, there were 680 stolen or attempted stolen Kia and Hyundai cars from May 1 to Nov. 10, 2022.
Thefts of the vehicles have continued at a high rate throughout 2023.
The Hyundai and Kia models are being targeted because of a software flaw.
"Many modern Hyundais and Kias lack a useful anti-theft device called an immobilizer, which prevents a vehicle from starting when someone attempts to use a key or key fob that doesn’t match the car," the Capital One Auto Navigator website explains. "This means that thieves can simply break into the vehicle, remove the steering column cover, jam a makeshift key into the ignition cylinder, and start the car."
The problem with the vehicles first came to light in July 2022, the website notes, when a Milwaukee-based group calling itself the Kia Boys (or Kia Boyz) posted a video to TikTok revealing how easy it is to steal some modern Kia and Hyundai models.
The videos led to the so-called "Kia Challenge," in which people tried their hand at stealing the vulnerable cars, then shared their success on TikTok and YouTube, the website explains.
In response to persistent thefts targeting vehicles without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices, Hyundai introduced an anti-theft software upgrade for affected customers. All of the nearly 4 million vehicles involved are now eligible to receive the software upgrade.