The Kia Challenge is a concerning social media trend that sees participants attempting to hijack the namesake car using a USB cable. The edgy challenge has turned tragic as the aftermath of an apparent attempt in Buffalo left four teenagers dead.
Social media challenges are typically innocuous attempts at jumping on the hype train of whatever meme or phenomenon the internet collectively decides to be obsessed with. The stakes are relatively low in something like the now cringeworthy Mannequin Challenge from 2016, but sometimes the quest to join in on the fun can turn sour.
The Kia Challenge is/was a social media trend on the video-sharing app TikTok that instructed participants on how to steal a Kia using nothing more than a USB cable or phone charger. What could go wrong? Well, a car crash in upstate New York left four teenagers dead and one hospitalized may be tied to the viral trend.
According to reporting from Insider, six teens in Buffalo appear to have tried their hands at the Kia Challenge, where users are encouraged to hijack newer Kia models with a USB cable to start the ignition. The group of teens got into a car accident on Route 33 in Buffalo on October 24 that led to four deaths, one hospitalization, and one relatively minor injury. Buffalo Police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said in a media briefing on Monday that he believes the incident is connected to the Kia Challenge.
“While no car can be made completely theft-proof, criminals are targeting vehicles equipped with a steel key and ‘turn-to-start’ ignition system as opposed to those equipped with a key fob and ‘push-button-to-start. system,” James Bell, head of corporate communications for Kia, told Gizmodo in an email. “Kia America continues to work closely with local law enforcement in affected areas to provide steering wheel lock devices at no cost to concerned owners of steel key operated Kia vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer.”
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A quick search on TikTok shows that the Kia Challenge appears to have reached a peak in popularity on the app in July and August of this year, and The Washington Post reports that the Kia Sportage is the model most Kia Challenge participants target. Videos on TikTok explain that both Kias and Hyundais have been the subject of the challenge.
Update October 28 3:07 pm: This article was updated to include a statement from Kia America.