Hyundai and Kia make some very popular cars. A little too popular, actually. The things are being stolen right and left, and a coalition of 23 state attorneys general say it's because the manufacturer cheaped out on the anti-theft devices.
“Hyundai and Kia made a decision to forgo a standard safety feature that would help protect owners’ investments, and now their customers are paying the price. It’s time for Hyundai and Kia to take responsibility for their poor decision which is hurting American families and putting public safety at risk. They must remedy this decision, now,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Bonta and the other AGs say that from 2011 to 2022, the companies chose not to include anti-theft devices called engine immobilizers that were a standard feature in almost every other new car manufactured during that period, including the same Hyundai and Kia models sold in Canada and Europe.
Hyundai and Kia owners now face unnecessary risk of having their vehicle stolen and increasingly are unable to obtain insurance, making the vehicles illegal to drive in some states. A letter from the AGs calls on Hyundai and Kia to take immediate action to correct this public safety issue.
Thefts gone viral
The cars 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 criminal activity, causing injuries and several fatalities across the nation.
The thefts have even gone viral, with videos on social media showing how to hotwire these vehicles and, on TikTok, challenging others to steal them. Following these videos, thefts began surging across the country.
In Los Angeles, for instance, thefts of Hyundai and Kia cars increased by approximately 85% in 2022 and constituted approximately 20% of stolen cars in Los Angeles in 2022, up from 13% in 2021. Similarly, in Berkeley, California, thefts of these cars have made up 38% of vehicle thefts since the end of 2022.
Many of the stolen cars wind up being wrecked,, causing at least eight fatalities nationwide and making it hard for owners to get insurance at a reasonable rate, the AGs said.
In the letter, the coalition asserts that Kia and Hyundai have not gone far enough in their attempts to correct the decision not to install industry-standard anti-theft immobilizers as standard equipment in vehicle models sold in the United States.
While the company has offered a software upgrade, this upgrade will not be available for most affected vehicles until June and for some 2011-2022 models cannot be installed at all. Additionally, the companies have attempted to pass additional costs back onto the consumer by offering a glass-break security at a cost of $170, plus additional costs for installation, which vehicles owners must pay for out-of-pocket.
The states urge the companies 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.
Besides California, states sending the letter include Arizona, 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, Wisconsin, along with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.