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My Hyundai was stolen in Austin. An event this weekend could stop it from happening to you.

KUT Reporter Maya Fawaz's car was broken into once in November and a second time in April. The photo shows a silver car with a blue tarp covering a back window after it was smashed. There is also an image of shattered glass on the pavement next to the car. A third image shows the car ignition split open with lots of wire hanging out.
Maya Fawaz
KUT News
Maya's car was broken into once in November and a second time in April. Austin Police say Hyundais and Kias make up about 42% of all stolen cars so far this year. That number has gone up each year since 2020.

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Like many others, my Hyundai Elantra has been beaten and bruised this past year.

Hyundais and Kias are getting stolen in Austin at a much higher rate than all other cars. In response, the Austin Police Department is hosting an event Saturday to put a dent in the thefts.

According to Hyundai, thefts began to spike in the summer of 2022 after car thieves went viral on TikTok for using USBs to bypass having a key in the ignition.

The “Kia Challenge” trend involves people posting their heists online and documenting the joyrides and crashes that ensued. I first became aware of these thefts and “Kia Boyz” groups across the country when I watched a YouTube video following a group in Connecticut, but by then it was too late.

Kia Boyz take the wheel

In November, I had a break-in that resulted in over $1,000 worth of damages. The security camera footage from my condo showed three small-framed people approaching my car.

They smashed the back right window. One of the smaller perpetrators climbed in head-first through the broken glass. They took apart the ignition and attempted to start my car with a USB charging cable I had left inside. The group also broke into my neighbor’s Kia in the same parking lot but didn’t manage to drive off in either of our cars.

Then, it happened again in April. But this time, they did start my car and drove off.

This is happening more and more often in Austin. Thefts of Hyundais and Kias went up nearly seven times from 2022 to 2023, according to APD data. These models made up over a third of Austin’s stolen vehicles last year.

APD data shows the numbers are already higher in 2024, with Hyundais and Kias making up 42% of stolen vehicles in the city.

Deterring and recovering

A class action lawsuit against Hyundai Motor America alleges Hyundai models between 2011 and 2022 contain design flaws that make them susceptible to theft and damage. The company is now offering a free anti-theft software upgrade to help with this problem.

On Saturday, Hyundai vehicle owners can get the upgrade at the APD office on Rutherford Lane from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The process should take less than 30 minutes. Vehicle owners will also receive a free steering wheel lock.

My 2020 Hyundai Elantra didn't have this software upgrade, which means my car could start without the key being sensed inside.

APD said it is already seeing an increase in unsuccessful auto thefts this year. Law enforcement believes this means the software is working. The department is looking to host a similar event for Kia owners, but no date has been set yet.

After watching dozens of videos of people crashing and abandoning Kias and Hyundais online, I didn’t have much hope for recovering my car, so I was surprised when, nearly two weeks later, APD said police found it.

So far in 2024, APD said it has recovered about 89% of Kias and Hyundais reported stolen. Most of them were found within Austin city limits. APD said the department’s Auto Theft Unit is “focusing efforts on cases with the most promising investigative leads.”

Maya Fawaz is KUT's Hays County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @mayagfawaz.