If anyone doubts the power of social media, consider the windstorm of legal headaches Hyundai and Kia are now facing over the design of their steering columns.
The two Korean brands are named in 15 class-action lawsuits filed by vehicle owners in 14 states who claim cars and crossovers spanning several model years, totaling millions of vehicles, are unsafe because they can be hot-wired too easily.
The suits allege the vehicles are defective because they lack an immobilizer, an anti-theft device that prevents the car from being started without a key fob.
But the legal claim is not simply a theoretical: Hyundai and Kia owners have been specifically targeted by car thieves for months. The crime craze is at least partly related to videos posted on TikTok and YouTube showing the world how easy it is to hot-wire their vehicles, essentially providing a how-to for aspiring thieves.
A surge of stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles began in Milwaukee and has since escalated to other states, quickly becoming a nationwide problem, plaintiff attorneys say. A crime ring, calling themselves the "Kia Boyz," spread among cities with hot-wiring a Kia as its chosen sport.