Attorney General Bonta Blasts Kia and Hyundai For Failure to Address Theft-Prone Vehicles

Monday, March 20, 2023
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Car companies were among the only manufacturers not to include standard anti-theft technology from 2011-2022

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta, as part of a coalition of 23 attorneys general, today sent a letter to Kia America and Hyundai Motor Company expressing concerns about the companies’ failure to take adequate steps to address the alarming rate of theft of the companies’ vehicles. 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. The letter calls on Hyundai and Kia to take immediate action to correct this public safety issue.

“Cars are often one of the largest purchases a family will ever make — and families shouldn’t have to worry that manufacturers are cutting corners that could put their purchase at risk,” said Attorney General Bonta. “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.”

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 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 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. Hyundai and Kia vehicles stolen in this manner have resulted in numerous crashes and at least eight fatalities nationwide, and the stolen vehicles have also been used to commit additional crimes. Additionally, owners are now facing the threat of being unable to insure their vehicles. Major insurance companies are now refusing to insure the Hyundai and Kia models most susceptible to theft. 

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.  

Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of 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, in filing the letter.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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