Armed with stunning new data showing the explosion of Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter on Thursday called the companies to recall vehicles that are unusually easy to steal. .
Kia says this isn’t necessary as it offers free equipment and software upgrades to owners who can fix the problem.
But Ellison, Carter, Frey and law enforcement officials said that wasn’t happening fast enough and thefts continued to rise, with Kias and Hyundais accounting for nearly 2 in every 5 vehicles stolen in Minneapolis last year. last year.
The Kia and Hyundai theft problem exploded in the United States last year after details of the vulnerability of vehicles using a traditional metal ignition key surfaced on social media, particularly TikTok, where teenagers were lured into responding to the call for the “Kia Challenge”. “
The resulting wave of thefts – including by some too young to drive – enables further crime and leaves death in their wake.
In July, Phoua Hang, 70, of St. Paul, was killed in a hit-and-run by a driver of a stolen Kia Sportage who swerved Hang’s vehicle, officials said. A 15-year-old boy was arrested.
In December, a 14-year-old died of injuries sustained in a single-vehicle crash involving a stolen Kia in Minneapolis, city officials said. In January, a teenager driving a stolen Kia died after being shot and crashing in north Minneapolis.
Here are some numbers released Thursday by Minneapolis and St. Paul.
- In Minneapolis, 2,340 Kia and Hyundai thefts were reported in 2022, an increase of 836% over the previous year.
- In Saint-Paul last year, 953 Kia and Hyundai thefts were reported, an increase of 611% compared to 2021.
- Over 198 owners in cities have had their vehicles stolen twice.
- 11 vehicles were stolen three times.
In Minneapolis last year, five homicides, 13 shootings, 36 robberies and 265 crashes were linked to stolen Kias or Hyundais, according to city figures.
“It’s child’s play to steal these cars, and it’s a responsibility for the whole city,” Frey said Friday. “A 50% increase, I would say that’s worrying. But 836%? That’s staggering.”
Ellison: “Use all the tools”
Thursday’s announcement by Ellison, Frey and Carter accompanies a letter they sent jointly to SeungKyu Yoon, president and CEO of Kia America; José Muñoz, President and CEO of Hyundai and Genesis Motor North America.
Kia and Hyundai are related by financial and ownership ties. More relevant here is that many vehicles made before 2021 by the two companies share the same vulnerability: a lack of anti-theft engine immobilizer that allows some to be essentially hot-wired with any USB socket.
The letter describes the companies’ recent offers to upgrade the software as a “step in the right direction”, but says “there needs to be a stronger and faster improvement plan for all vehicles”.
Ellison said his office would “use every tool of the law” to address the issue, raising the specter of further state or city lawsuits.
Civil class action lawsuits have already been filed, including residents of Minnesota and more than a dozen states. Several major cities, including Seattle and Cleveland, have sued or are publicly considering doing so.
“We are evaluating all of our options,” Ellison spokesman Keaon Dousti said.
Similarly, Frey said, “All options are on the table.”
Kia: “No defects”
In a statement released by Kia America, the company said: “Because there are no defects in the safety features of any of these vehicles and because all Kia vehicles, including these models, are fully compliant with all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards, a recall is neither appropriate nor necessary under federal law.”
The company encouraged people who own or lease Kia vehicles to schedule a free software update at any dealership, call 800-333-4542 or use the owner portal at kia.com. As of Thursday, there appeared to be no significant mention of vehicle theft issues on its website. Kia vehicles manufactured in 2022 or later contain engine immobilizer technology that makes them harder to steal.
Additionally, the company said it has sent free steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies upon request. A Minneapolis police spokesperson said more than 250 such locks had been recovered from vulnerable vehicle owners. To learn more about getting one, the spokesperson said Minneapolis residents can call their local police station.
TikTok has publicly stated that it does not condone the videos and will remove them if posted.