BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — If you drive a Kia and are worried about your vehicle getting stolen because of a new social media trend, the automaker is working on a solution.

Kia America told News 4 that they plan on working with local law enforcement agencies to get free steering wheel locks in the hands of Kia owners.

In a statement, Kia America said: “While no car can be made completely theft-proof, Kia America has pledged to work closely with local law enforcement in their fight by providing, at no cost, steering wheel locks as an optional safeguard to concerned owners of steel key-operated Kia vehicles.”

Kia hasn’t provided a timeline on when customers can start requesting locks.

Law enforcement officials say they don’t know much about the new plan.

“Nobody contact me from Kia to say that they’re asking local law enforcement to hand out these steering wheel locks,” Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti said.

Sheriff Filicetti thinks Kia should be responsible for distributing wheel locks to customers who need them and that police departments are not equipped for such task.

“Kia is far better poised and in a better position to know who has the vehicles that are affected by the security issue and get these wheel locks out through the dealership. I’m not quite sure and I don’t understand why they would be issued out by law enforcement that’s not really what we do,” Sheriff Filicetti added.

We’re working to learn more details on how Kia and law enforcement will collaborate.

Kia’s “pledge” to work with law enforcement on this issue comes in the wake of the “Kia Challenge,” a social media trend encouraging people to steal Kia vehicles and take them for a joyride.

In Buffalo, four teenagers were killed, and two others were injured Monday after a crash where the Kensington Expressway west meets the Scajaquada Expressway. The teens were in a Kia Sportage which was reported stolen the previous night.

Kia drivers in Buffalo are concerned about their car’s security after the incident.

“This brought to my concern that utilizing street parking, I’m so nervous now leaving my car out here on the street because I don’t have a garage to put it in where it can be safe,” Becky R., who preferred not to use her last name, said. “I mean I’m just hoping no one breaks into it. It’s on the street. There are so many cars on the street as you can see, so I’m just hoping nothing happens to it really.”

The 16-year-old driver of the vehicle survived and was charged with third-degree unauthorized use of a vehicle and one count of fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

Buffalo Police have seen a spike in Kias being stolen in the city fueled by the “Kia Challenge,” Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told News 4.

Kia owners can call the Consumer Assistance Center at 1-800-333-4542 for “questions regarding their Kia vehicle.”

Read the full statement from Kia America below:

Kia America joins the Buffalo community in mourning the tragic crash involving six local teenagers early Monday morning, apparently the result of a theft of a Kia Sportage Sunday evening. Kia is aware of the recent trend amongst our youth – encouraged by social media – that target certain Kia cars with a steel key and “turn-to-start” ignition systems. In many cases, the vehicles are stolen solely for the purpose of operating in a reckless and dangerous manner. Such criminal conduct endangers our local communities and violates the property rights of the vehicle owner. The Buffalo PD has not yet released all pertinent details from its investigation that will allow us to connect this particular instance with this larger societal trend.

While no car can be made completely theft-proof, Kia America has pledged to work closely with local law enforcement in their fight by providing, at no cost, steering wheel locks as an optional safeguard to concerned owners of steel key-operated Kia vehicles. All Kia vehicles, including those with “turn-to-start” ignition systems fully meet or exceed all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and all 2022 Kia vehicles are equipped with smart key technology.

Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542.


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