Thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles dramatically higher in metro area, leading to deaths and other violent crimes
Last week, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in calling for a federal recall of Hyundai and Kia vehicles, following what his office called a failure by the companies to take adequate steps to address the alarming rate of theft of their vehicles.
In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Attorney General Ellison and the coalition requested that NHTSA institute a recall of unsafe Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022. The vehicles’ ignition switches are easily bypassed and the lack of engine immobilizers makes them particularly vulnerable to theft.
The letter by the coalition comes on the heels of his office’s ongoing civil investigation into whether Hyundai and Kia have violated Minnesota’s consumer protection and public nuisance laws in failing to equip their vehicles with industry-standard anti-theft technology.
The letter also comes after Attorney General Ellison, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter wrote directly to the North American presidents of the two car companies in March to ask them to immediately recall and outfit all Kia and Hyundai vehicles missing industry-standard anti-theft technology, in order to stem the rapidly rising tide of vehicle thefts in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Their letter highlights a drastic increase in Kia and Hyundai auto thefts over the past year, including an 893% increase in Minneapolis and a 611% increase in St. Paul. Many of these thefts have been connected to other violent crimes.
In last week’s letter, the coalition called on the federal government to step in, as the vehicles’ systems remain out of compliance with federal standards and pose an unreasonable risk to public safety, and the companies have failed to address these safety issues.
“The massive increase in thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles have Kia and Hyundai have more than enough time to fix this problem voluntarily. It’s now time for the federal government to step in and mandate a recall of these vehicles,” Attorney General Ellison said. “In the meantime, I’m continuing my civil investigation of Kia and Hyundai and the ongoing threat to public safety they have failed to fix. I’m using the tools of civil law to help keep Minnesotans safe.”
Between 2011 and 2022, Hyundai and Kia chose not to include anti-theft devices that were a standard feature in almost every other new car manufactured during that time period, including the same Hyundai and Kia models sold in Canada and Europe. Hyundai and Kia owners now face the unnecessary risks of having their vehicles stolen, as well as related concerns, like struggling to obtain insurance for the affected vehicles.
These vehicles have been stolen at high rates since approximately 2021, harming consumers and contributing to an erosion of public safety. The thefts have frequently been accompanied by reckless driving and further criminal activity, causing injuries and deaths. The thefts have even gone viral, with videos on social media showing how to hotwire these vehicles and challenging others to steal them. Following these videos, thefts began surging across the country.
Attorney General Ellison and the coalition assert that Kia and Hyundai have not gone far enough in their attempts to remedy their vehicles’ vulnerability to theft. While the companies have offered a software upgrade, this upgrade will not be available for many affected vehicles until June and some 2011-2022 models cannot be installed at all. Vehicle owners who cannot receive the software upgrade can reportedly receive a free steering wheel lock from Kia and Hyundai, but this places additional burdens on owners and does not address the underlying ignition system flaw that makes the vehicles so vulnerable to theft. Many owners have contacted NHTSA for assistance with this theft issue.
In the letter, the states urge NHTSA to take immediate action by instituting a recall of the unsafe Hyundai and Kia vehicles because:
- The vehicles violate federal requirements that vehicles have a starting system that prevents the activation of the engine or motor and steering system when the key is removed;
- The Hyundai and Kia vehicles’ vulnerability to hotwiring and theft has created an unreasonable and well-documented risk to safety on U.S. roads;
- Surging thefts of unsafe Hyundai and Kia vehicles have consumed law enforcement and emergency responder resources; and
- The companies’ response through a phased and voluntary service campaign is insufficient to protect drivers and the general public.
Attorney General Ellison joins a coalition led by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and includes the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Information provided in part by the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General.