Kia and Hyundai owners now face new struggle: Getting parts for their stolen cars

A viral social media challenge has led to a surge in car thefts.

April 29, 2023, 5:05 AM

Kia and Hyundai owners whose cars were damaged or stolen in the wake of a social media video teaching people how to easily steal the cars are now waiting months for repairs after a shortage of parts.

Many of the cars are recovered within a few days after the thieves are done with their joyrides. Often the back window is smashed and the steering column is damaged or destroyed, making those parts the hardest to find.

Stefan Mantyk’s 2018 Kia Rio was stolen in Michigan on Feb. 10. Police recovered the damaged car a week later but he says the vehicle is now sitting at the dealership.

"They had everything else fixed but then they found out that the steering column lock was broken. It turned out that the entire steering column top needed to be replaced," Mantyk told ABC News.

Gregg Van Slyke, a 76-year-old retiree from Portland, is in a similar situation. His 2012 Hyundai Sonata was stolen early in the morning on Super Bowl Sunday. Police recovered the car later that day but it's since been parked at the dealership waiting on parts.

States say Kia and Hyundai need to "step up"

Both Mantyk and Van Slyke are victims of the so-called "Kia Challenge" -- a viral social media challenge that sparked a surge in thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars across the United States. Thieves targeted certain Kia and Hyundai models manufactured between 2011 and 2022 that lack anti-theft controls. Would-be thieves use screwdrivers and USB cables to steal the vehicles.

Twenty-three states have called on automakers to "take swift and comprehensive action" to curb the rise in thefts. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said there were 6,970 Kia and Hyundai vehicles reported stolen in Milwaukee in 2021, up from a total of 895 in 2020 -- a nearly 800% increase. Thefts of the cars declined slightly in 2022.

In Minneapolis, thefts of Kia and Hyundais increased by 836% in 2022 over the previous year. And in St Louis County, thefts surged 1,090% from 2021 to 2022.

Eighteen attorneys general have also called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall some Kia and Hyundai vehicles. "Thefts of these Hyundai and Kia vehicles have led to at least eight deaths, numerous injuries and property damage, and they have diverted significant police and emergency services resources from other priorities," the agency said.

In response to the thefts, Kia and Hyundai have rolled out a free software upgrades for their vehicles not equipped with immobilizers. The automakers have also been distributing steering wheel locks for local law enforcement to give to drivers.

The Kia Corp. logo on the steering wheel of an EV9 electric sports utility vehicle, March 30, 2023.
SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Victims say there’s no timeline for getting their vehicles fixed

Mantyk said he was able to get a rental car from his insurer after his was stolen. But after 30 days he needed to find another way to get around.

"I'm an independent contractor, so I go from job to job and not having my own vehicle for a while made it very difficult to get to jobs. I had to pass on work," Mantyk said. "I ended up buying a car for like a thousand bucks just so I could get from point A to point B. I don't know how reliable it is."

Van Slyke said he needs to drive to and from doctors' appointments three times a week. His insurance gave him a rental for just 10 days.

"My insurance rental ran out, so I had to give up that car and then I used Lyft for a while and then I was able to harass my dealership into finally getting the loaner car," Van Slyke said. "I'm very grateful for that because I have medical appointments that I need to go to and it was getting pretty difficult to get around."

He added, "The service representative that I've been talking to doesn't know when or if they'll get a part to replace it, because there's been so much demand due to the high theft of Hyundais nationwide. So we're kind of stuck there."

Both Mantyk and Van Slyke said they have no idea when they’ll get their cars back.

The dealership doesn't know "when the parts are going to be coming in because Kia corporate doesn't give them any information as to when they're getting parts in," Mantyk said.

Van Slyke said he has since joined a class-action lawsuit against the automakers.

When asked about the parts shortages, Kia told ABC News some of these parts have been out of production for years and supply chain issues have been exacerbating the problem. The company, however, is "doing all we can to assist and working with our dealers to make sure any and all available parts are being redistributed to where needed most."

Hyundai told ABC News it was "aware of minimal reported instances of some parts on back-order" and it "constantly monitors and proactively manages its parts supply chain to ensure a stable supply of parts delivered to our customers."

"I don’t know what the future holds for my vehicle"

Mantyk and Van Slyke said they don’t know if they’ll continue to drive their cars once they get them back.

"Once I have my car, what am I supposed to do with it? Because I can't drive it anywhere less it gets stolen," Mantyk said.

Mantyk said he’s made three car payments since his Kia was initially stolen.

"My biggest frustration is probably the whole fact that I'm paying on a car that I can't keep. I can't sell it because it'll just get stolen from somebody else," he said.

Van Slyke said he hopes Hyundai will recall his vehicle and replace the ignition system, saying he’s worried it would get stolen again in the future.

"I believe that if I get the car back again, I will attempt to sell that car and buy a car that's not so high on the theft list," Van Slyke said.

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