17 states urge recall of Kia, Hyundai cars due to theft

General attorneys from 17 states urge recall of Kia and Hyundai cars due to car thefts

Attorneys General from 17 states is urging the federal government to issue a recall on millions of Kia and Hyundai cars due to an increase in thefts caused by a viral social media challenge. This follows reports that some Kia and Hyundai cars sold in the United States lack engine immobilizers, a standard feature on most cars that prevents the engine from starting unless the key is present. Videos circulating on TikTok have demonstrated how thieves can start these models using just a screwdriver and a USB cable. The California attorney general’s office has reported that thefts of Hyundai and Kia cars have surged by 85% in 2022 in Los Angeles, now accounting for 20% of all car thefts in the city.

The trend of social media-inspired thefts has had fatal consequences, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributing 14 reported crashes and eight deaths to stolen cars. In October, a car crash in Buffalo, New York, claimed the lives of four teenagers and may have been linked to the TikTok challenge. The car had been reported stolen, and six teenagers were in the speeding Kia at the time of the crash. “The bottom line is, Kia’s and Hyundai’s failure to install standard safety features on many of their vehicles have put vehicle owners and the public at risk,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a news release. “Instead of taking responsibility with appropriate corrective action, these carmakers have chosen instead to pass this risk onto consumers and our communities.”

17 states urge recall of Kia, Hyundai cars due to theft
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The appeal

California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, together with his counterparts from 16 other states and the District of Columbia, wrote a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Thursday, calling for a nationwide recall of certain Kia and Hyundai car models that lack essential anti-theft features. The attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington also signed the letter.

The joint appeal was made in response to a recent surge in thefts of these car models, which can be easily started without a key, as demonstrated in viral TikTok videos. The lack of engine immobilizers, which are standard in most cars and prevent the engine from starting unless the key is present, has made these vehicles particularly vulnerable to theft.

The letter requests that NHTSA investigate the matter and take appropriate action, including a nationwide recall of affected vehicles, to address the safety concerns associated with the thefts. It is hoped that such action will help prevent further fatalities resulting from stolen cars, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has already attributed to this trend.

Addressing concerns

In response to the call for a nationwide recall of certain Kia and Hyundai car models lacking essential anti-theft features, Kia has issued a statement saying that they are aware of the issue and are taking action to address the concerns raised by the attorneys general. The automaker has installed the necessary software in over 165,000 cars and contacted over 2 million owners about it. Despite this, Kia claims that their vehicles comply with federal safety standards, and therefore, they do not believe a recall is necessary.

Similarly, Hyundai has stated that its vehicles meet federal anti-theft requirements and has already rolled out the software upgrade to prevent thefts, two months ahead of schedule. However, the company did not disclose how many vehicles have received the software update. According to a statement from the company, they are in communication with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the measures they have taken to help their customers. In September of last year, the Highway Loss Data Institute, a unit of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, conducted a study that found that Hyundai and Kia cars without immobilizers had a higher vehicle theft claim rate of 2.18 per 1,000 insured vehicle years, compared to the rest of the industry combined, which had a rate of 1.21. This study has added to the growing concern about the ease of theft in these car models, prompting calls for immediate action to address the issue.