Kia thefts: Texans raise awareness after having vehicles stolen recently

Central Texans want to raise awareness after having their Kias stolen in recent months.

"I thought I got towed," said Jason Corbiere, a Round Rock resident who had his 2020 Kia Soul stolen from Austin in May. 

His car was tracked down by police the next day.

"I know a juvenile under the age of 14 was found driving it," said Corbiere. "The alignment was all out of whack. And of course, the ignition and all that area was all torn apart. They had stolen my lane guidance camera which keeps it in the lane and has safety features. They stole everything in it, cleaned out everything that was in my car." 

Thefts of Kias and Hyundais have spiked ever since a TikTok trend emerged in 2021 showing how to start one of these cars with something as simple as a USB cord. This is possible because most 2011-22 Kias and Hyundais were not equipped with an immobilizer, which prevents a vehicle from starting with something other than the key or key fob. 


In May, Austin police announced in the previous six months, there were about 600 cases of stolen Kias and Hyundais reported in Austin alone. 

"These cases have grown significantly in a short amount of time," said APD Det. Francisco Jimenez at the time. 

After his vehicle was stolen, Corbiere got connected with another victim through a mutual friend.

"She said, ‘You're not going to believe this, but my car got stolen a second time,’" said Corbiere. 

Kyle resident Jessica Jenkins’ stolen 2018 Kia Optima was found, then stolen again, while it was at the dealership waiting for repairs. 

"It's been a headache," said Jenkins. "I really just want a different car. I don't want this car that everybody's targeting." 

Earlier this year, Hyundai, the company that owns Kia, announced a new ’anti-theft’ software upgrade available to owners of some of the vulnerable vehicles.

The company also promised to work with AAA to ensure customers can still get insurance and make steering wheel locks available for law enforcement agencies across the country to distribute.

However, when Jenkins and Corbiere received a ‘customer satisfaction initiative’ letter from Hyundai informing them about the anti-theft software it was a little too late.

"I received it in the mail two days after it was stolen and Jessica said the same thing," said Corbiere. "I was like, that's weird."


Throw into the mix backordered parts.

"I was trying to get another car and no dealership in the area would take the car as it sat because they needed it repaired," said Corbiere. "So at that point, I just gave up, and I said, I need another vehicle. I can't be without a vehicle for months. It was costing me. I'm a drummer, so I need the room in the car." 

Now, Jenkins and Corbiere are hoping to get the word out to other owners.

"I even stop if I see them at a red light or if I'm at a gas station. I tell them the story, and they've never even heard of it, just like me. I had no idea until police informed me that night about this TikTok challenge," said Corbiere. "It's a major issue. It'll completely turn your life upside down because you end up with a damaged car that you didn't do. They devalue your car, and then all of a sudden, it's like you go from being the victim to being at fault for having it happen. And it's not fun. It was a horrible experience."

In May, Hyundai settled a class-action lawsuit over the automaker’s failure to equip certain models with an immobilizer for more than $200 million.

For vehicle owners that believe they are eligible for reimbursement and would like to submit a claim once the process is finalized, click here.

According to NHTSA, owners of older Kias and Hyundais can contact Hyundai at 800-633-5151 or Kia at 800-333-4542 to see if they are eligible for the software upgrade. Vehicle owners can also reach out to a local dealership.

Have a story idea or problem you need help with? Email