Nearly two dozen state attorneys general penned a letter Monday to the leadership of Kia and Hyundai urging the carmakers to take action against the “crisis of thefts” they say is a result of the companies’ failure to equip vehicles with anti-theft immobilizers.
While available data suggests most types of violent crime are declining in the U.S., motor vehicle thefts have been steadily rising for several years. Kia and Hyundai vehicles represent a large share of stolen cars in multiple cities, data from police and state officials suggests.
The group of 23 attorneys general says that’s because Kia and Hyundai chose not to include anti-theft immobilizers as standard equipment in many vehicle models sold in the U.S. even though “every other car manufacturer” was doing so. The same Kia and Hyundai vehicles sold in Canada and Europe were equipped with immobilizers, the attorneys general said.
Hyundai Motor Company is Kia’s parent company. Hyundai spokesperson Ira Gabriel said the company is “committed to the quality and integrity of our products” and “plans to continue supporting the communities affected by this theft issue.” He said all vehicles meet federal anti-theft requirements.
Kia, Hyundai campaign ‘not enough,’ officials say
Kia and Hyundai recently announced changes like warning stickers, longer alarms and a software upgrade that aims to prevent the vehicles from starting during a method of theft popularized on TikTok and other social media channels.
Kia and Hyundai said they have contacted more than a million customers with information on the software update. They’ve also shipped tens of thousands of physical anti-theft steering wheel locks to hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country to distribute to customers, among other measures.
The attorneys general said the campaign is “positive news” but “not enough.” They say the companies have responded slowly and not taken responsibility for the “crisis.”
“We urge you to do everything in your power to accelerate the implementation of the software upgrade and to provide free alternative protective measures for all those owners whose cars cannot support the software upgrade,” the letter says.
Hyundai and Kia owners face the threat of being unable to insure their vehicles, the attorneys general note. Progressive and State Farm have dropped some older Hyundai and Kia vehicles due to their lack of anti-theft features. Kia said the company is in touch with major insurance carriers.
23 attorneys general send letter
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is leading the coalition with the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, along with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.
Kia, Hyundai thefts soaring in cities across US
The attorneys general cite rising rates of Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Buffalo, New York.
In Chicago, there were over 7,000 thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles in 2022, according to data from the Illinois Secretary of State, reported by CBS Chicago. The thefts account for 10% of all registered Kias and 7% of all registered Hyundais in the city.
In Minneapolis, thefts of Hyundais and Kias increased by 836% in 2022 over the previous year, the Star Tribune reported.
The trend shows “no signs of abating anytime soon,” the letter says. In Washington, D.C., Kias and Hyundais made up 44% of all car thefts in the first three weeks of 2023, according to police data cited in the letter.
In Buffalo, New York, the numbers of stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles rose from 400 during all of 2022 to 350 in the first two months of 2023, WGRZ-TV reported. The figures prompted Sen. Chuck Schumer to travel to Buffalo in February to call on Kia and Hyundai to take action.
Earlier in March, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison launched a civil investigation into Kia and Hyundai to determine whether the companies violated the state’s consumer protection and public nuisance laws.
In Minnesota last year, Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts were tied to five homicides, 13 shootings, 36 robberies and 265 motor vehicle accidents, according to Ellison’s office.