Eighteen Attorneys General are calling for the launch of a recall of Kia and Hyundai car models without anti-theft protection.
In recent months, Kia and Hyundai models manufactured between 2011 and 2022 have seen increasing theft rates after social media urged people to steal the cars using a screwdriver and USB cable. Some of the thefts were posted on social media using the hashtag #KiaBoyz.
“Thefts of these Hyundai and Kia vehicles have resulted in at least eight deaths, numerous injuries and property damage, and have diverted significant police and emergency services resources from other priorities,” the attorney general wrote in a joint letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA). .
A voluntary service campaign by Hyundai and Kia to allow drivers software updates is an “inadequate answer to the problem,” the attorneys general wrote.
The recalls will take months and “even more worryingly, an update is not even feasible for a significant percentage of affected vehicles,” the letter said. The attorneys general added that the volunteer service campaign “is unlikely to repair as many vehicles as needed in a timely manner.”
“The lack of anti-theft measures in cars manufactured by Kia and Hyundai has led to a significant increase in car thefts – and related public safety issues – across the district and across the country. In the district, Kias and Hyundais made up a significant portion of the cars recovered in 2022 and an even larger portion in 2023,” Washington, DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb, who signed the letter, told ABC News.
In 2022, Hyundai and Kia thefts increased nationwide. In Los Angeles, the city saw an 85 percent increase in car thefts in 2022, with Kia and Hyundai accounting for three-quarters of the city’s total increase in stolen cars. In Minneapolis, Kia and Hyundai thefts rose 836 percent. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kia accounted for 58 percent of all stolen cars in 2022.
In a statement to ABC News, Kia says it has contacted over two million owners and lessees to notify them of the software updates. More than 165,000 have installed the update, according to the company, which also says it has given 39,000 free steering wheel locks to more than 275 law enforcement agencies.
“Kia remains very focused on this issue and we continue to take action to address the concerns raised by these Attorneys General. We are committed to working with them and law enforcement agencies in their respective states to combat auto theft and the role social media has played in promoting it,” the statement said.
Hyundai Motor America told ABC News that “it is important to clarify that an immobilizer is an anti-theft device and that these vehicles fully meet federal anti-theft requirements.”
“Thieves discovered a special method to bypass the vehicles’ security features, and then documented and promoted their exploits on TikTok and other social media channels,” Hyundai added.
According to Hyundai, the company has taken “comprehensive measures” including making immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced from November 2021 and fully rolling out a free anti-theft software upgrade two months ahead of schedule.
Attorneys general from Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state and Washington, DC all signed the letter.
In 2022, Hyundai and Kia thefts increased nationwide. Los Angeles saw an 85% increase in auto thefts in 2022, with Kias and Hyundais accounting for nearly three-quarters of the city’s stolen car surge, according to the letter. In Minneapolis, Kia and Hyundai thefts rose 836%, and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kia made up 58% of all stolen cars in 2022, the attorney general said.