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Drive a Kia or Hyundai? MARTA Wants to Give You a Free Steering Wheel Lock

The move is an effort to combat a viral social media challenge that is leading to a spike in Atlanta car thefts.

MARTA is hosting a free event to help Kia and Hyundai owners. (Getty Images)

Do you own a Kia or a Hyundai? Ride MARTA? The transit agency is hosting an event that aims to ensure its riders’ personal vehicles are still in the parking lot when they return to them.

In late May, MARTA announced they were partnering with Kia and Hyundai Motors to give away 640 steering wheel locks to help prevent thefts after a viral social media challenge showcased how to start the vehicle without a key.

“MARTA has experienced a significant decrease in crime over the past few years, so when we saw an increase in theft and vandalism of Kia and Hyundai vehicles, we worked to determine the cause and quickly implement this deterrent,” said MARTA Deputy Police Chief Willie Davenport.

The concern can be felt across the metro area as local entities continue to host events to help owners with what is quickly becoming a citywide issue. The Atlanta Police Department has held two events, giving away the devices free of charge.

And now, MARTA is on their third event that’s free of cost to Atlanta residents. Here’s what you need to know.

Wait, this started with a TikTok challenge?

Yes. First started in Milwaukee by a group of teens who have dubbed themselves the “KIA Boyz” (or “KIA Girlz” for the young women), the “Kia Challenge” capitalizes on an oversight in newer Kia and Hyundai models that makes the car relatively easy to steal. 

Now, the trend has made its way down south, where 1,037 Kias and Hyundais have been stolen in the city so far this year, according to data provided to Capital B Atlanta by APD. In comparison, Atlanta police reported only 52 thefts of those vehicles in 2022.

Why is it easy to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles?

Starting in model year 2011, both auto manufacturers began producing vehicles without an immobilizer, which serves as an theft prevention mechanism. 

An immobilizer prevents the car from being hot-wired, a common method of stealing a car.

Because of the way these models were produced, thieves can use a screwdriver and a charger to hot-wire your vehicle using a USB cord in a matter of minutes.

What have Kia and Hyundai done to address the issue?

Thanks to a class-action suit that alleged the manufacturer knowingly built and distributed cars without the immobilizer, Kia America and Hyundai Motors agreed to pay $200 million dollars to affected customers back in May.  

The companies also agreed to provide cash compensation for customers who incurred theft-related vehicle losses, damage not covered by insurance, reimbursement for deductibles, and increased premiums, according to a news release

When is the MARTA event? Who’s eligible?

MARTA has had a few events to distribute wheel locks in the past, including those on   May 25 and June 1.

The latest event is happening  Tuesday, June 13, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., at the Kensington Station in Decatur.

Though the event is free, the MARTA police will only be distributing wheel locks to owners with vehicle models 2011 to 2022. 

You must also have a valid proof of ownership and a valid MARTA Breeze Card to participate. 

You can find more details here