Vehicles lacking anti-theft technology jeopardize public safety
On Tuesday, March 7, the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a civil investigation into sales of Kia of America and Hyundai USA vehicles that lack “industry-standard, anti-theft technology.” The investigation will require both Kia and Hyundai to provide documents and testimony to Ellison’s office, to determine if the two auto manufacturers violated state consumer protection and public nuisance laws.
“The drastic increase in Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts is continuing to threaten public safety and do serious harm to our communities,” Ellison said in a press release. “With this investigation, we will follow where the facts lead us and will continue to use all the tools of the law to help keep Minnesotans safe.”
The announcement followed a March 2 letter to Kia and Hyundai, penned by Ellison along with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. The letter, addressed to Hyundai CEO José Muñoz and Kia of America CEO SeungKyu Yoon, urged a recall of all vehicles missing anti-theft technology.
“The lack of anti-theft technology in Kia and Hyundai vehicles makes them a prime target of auto theft, and social media trends have clearly shown how simple tools can be used to break into them,” the letter states. “Innocent lives are at risk.”
According to a press release from Frey, 2,340 Kia, and Hyundai vehicles were stolen in Minneapolis in 2022, an 836% increase from the number of thefts in 2021.
“The ease and sheer volume with which these Kia and Hyundais were stolen creates too many opportunities for both crime and tragedy,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara. “These vehicle thefts have endangered the lives of innocent people of all ages in all corners of Minneapolis.
“These vehicles are used to facilitate more serious crime and harm in our communities,” said O’Hara. “Children not even old enough to have a learners’ permit have died while behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle. This epidemic needs to be addressed by both car owners and the manufacturers.”
While Kia and Hyundai have each announced programs offering owners free software upgrades, which would prevent a method of theft with a USB device, the letter from Ellison and the mayors pushed for all Kia and Hyundai vehicles to be equipped with engine immobilizers. Neither Kia nor Hyundai have responded to requests for comment.
Mayor Frey tweeted his praise on Tuesday morning for Ellison’s announcement of opening an investigation into the two automakers. “I applaud [Ellison] for launching a civil investigation into Kia and Hyundai’s sale of vehicles that lack industry-standard anti-theft technology,” Frey said.
“Too many lives in the Twin Cities have been lost due to this preventable crime, and it’s time we say enough is enough.” In a follow-up tweet, Frey also advocated for holding car thieves accountable on top of having the vehicles recalled.