Easily stolen Hyundais and Kias should be recalled, say more than a dozen attorneys general

(CNN) A coalition of attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia on Thursday called for a federal recall of Hyundai and Kia vehicles they say are dangerous and too easy to steal.

The attorneys general called for the recall “following the companies’ continued failure to take adequate action to address the alarming rate of theft of their vehicles,” said a statement from California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who leads the coalition.

In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the coalition called for the recall of “unsafe” Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 “which have easily bypassed ignition switches and lack of engine immobilizers. engine make them particularly vulnerable to theft”.

The vehicles in question, 2015-2019 Hyundai and Kia models, such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Tucson and the Kia Forte and Sportage, when fitted with turnkey ignitions – as opposed to cars which only require a button to start. — are about twice as likely to be stolen as other vehicles of the same age. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, an industry group that tracks insurance statistics, many of these vehicles lack the basic car theft prevention technology included in most other vehicles, even during these years.

NHTSA responded that this is not the kind of thing the agency could require a recall for.

“This particular case involves intentional criminal conduct on the responsibility of law enforcement authorities,” the motor vehicle safety agency said in a statement. “However, since last year, NHTSA has met repeatedly with Hyundai and Kia to discuss causes contributing to the theft vulnerability, review the scope of different software and hardware in affected models, and receive regular updates on business action plans.

These models were the subject of a viral social media trend in which thieves filmed themselves and others stealing Hyundai and Kia vehicles and taking them for a spin. In some parts of the country, the problem has become so severe that some insurance companies have refused to underwrite new policies on these Hyundai and Kia models in places where thefts have become extremely common.

The models in question do not have electronic immobilizers, which rely on a computer chip in the car and another in the key that communicate to confirm that the key belongs to that vehicle. Without the correct key, an immobilizer would have to do just that – stop the car from moving.

“Hyundai and Kia have announced that they will initiate voluntary service campaigns to provide software updates for certain vehicles with this starting system vulnerability. Unfortunately, however, this is an insufficient response to the issue and does not does not adequately address the safety issues facing vehicle owners and the public,” the letter to NHSTA reads.

In a statement Friday, Hyundai said it is “committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of its products.”

“A subset of Hyundai vehicles on the road in the United States today – mostly base or entry-level models – are not equipped with push-button ignitions and anti-theft anti-theft devices,” said said Hyundai. “It is important to clarify that an ignition interlock is an anti-theft device and these vehicles are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements. The thieves discovered a specific method to bypass vehicle security features, then documented and promoted their exploits . on TikTok and other social media channels.”

The automaker went on to say it has taken “comprehensive steps” to help customers. This action includes, in part, standardizing engine immobilizers on all vehicles from November 2021 and rolling out a software upgrade to “prevent the method of theft involved, two months ahead of schedule.” “.

Kia said Friday that it “remains very focused on this issue and we continue to take action to address the concerns raised by these attorneys general. We are committed to working with them and their respective state law enforcement agencies to car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it.”

Kia added that it “will continue to roll out a free and improved security software update to restrict unauthorized operation of vehicle ignition systems and we are also providing steering wheel locks to affected owners at no cost to them. “.

“To date, Kia has contacted more than two million owners and lessees of Kia vehicles to inform them of the availability of the software upgrade, and more than 165,000 eligible customers have already installed the upgrade,” said said the automaker. “Additionally, in addition to providing more than 39,000 free steering wheel locks to more than 275 law enforcement agencies across the country for distribution to affected Kia owners, we have also shipped nearly 8,000 locks directly to owners concerned. locks as required.”

The two South Korean automakers have created a software patch to fix the problem, the automakers said. Hyundai and Kia operate as separate companies in the United States, but Hyundai Motor Group owns a significant stake in Kia, and various Hyundai and Kia models share much of their engineering.

The patch will be installed for free on models that require it, along with software that requires an actual key in the ignition to turn on the vehicle. The software will also block starting the car after locking the doors using the key fob remote. The vehicle will need to be unlocked before it can be started.

The software also extends the duration of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to a full minute. Hyundai dealers will also affix stickers to the windows indicating that the vehicle is equipped with anti-theft software.

“Ultimately, the failure of Kia and Hyundai to install standard safety features on many of their vehicles put vehicle owners and the public at risk,” Attorney General Bonta said. “We are now calling on the federal government to demand that these companies correct their mistake through a national recall and assist us in our continued efforts to protect the public from these dangerous vehicles.”

Recalls are ordered by NHTSA or, much more often, undertaken by automakers to correct safety-related defects. The letter from the attorneys general claims that the ease of theft of these Hyundai and Kia vehicles poses a safety hazard and that the vehicles do not meet federal theft prevention standards.

“In addition, thieves drove these vehicles recklessly, speeding up and performing wild stunts and causing numerous crashes, at least eight deaths and significant injuries,” the letter reads.

CNN’s Aaron Silverman contributed to this report

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