Seventeen attorneys-general from 17 states and the District of Columbia, are demanding the compulsory recall of Hyundai and Kia’s vehicles manufactured from 2011 to 2022. Led by the attorney-general of California, Rob Bonta, the coalition of attorneys-general urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall the vehicles because of the high incidents of theft common to them.
Bonta said the Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured within the specified years are easy to steal and that this is putting the public at risk. Apart from the fact that vehicle owners lose their cars to thieves, the robbers often drive the cars recklessly on the road, leading to violent crashes and significant loss of lives. He said the NHTSA should mandate the recall of the cars to enable the manufacturers to improve their security features against theft.
Bonta had alleged that the automakers failed to address security concerns even though they are aware that thieves easily bypassed ignition switches to take advantage of the lack of engine immobilizers to steal the cars.
He stated that “following the companies’ continued failure to take adequate steps to address the alarming rate of theft of their vehicles,” the vehicles “whose easily bypassed ignition switches and lack of engine immobilizers make them particularly vulnerable to theft” should be recalled.
In its response to the letter written by the attorneys-general, the NHTSA said that if it can be proven that the vehicle manufacturers intentionally failed to safeguard their vehicles against theft, then the matter is outside the control of the agency and actually within the purview of law enforcement agencies.
“This particular matter involves intentional criminal conduct under the purview of law enforcement authorities,” the NHTSA stated. “However, since last year, NHTSA has repeatedly met with Hyundai and Kia to discuss the causes contributing to the theft vulnerability, review the scope of differing software and hardware in the affected models, and receive regular updates on the companies’ action plans.”
The concerns of the coalition of attorneys-general became more worrisome when thieves filmed themselves stealing Hyundai and Kai vehicles. Some people also joined the excitement to unlock and drive others’ cars away to prove the vehicles can be exploited or stolen. To this end, some insurance companies refused to insure the affected Hyundai and Kia models in areas where theft is very common.
Hyundai responded that all vehicles manufactured from November 2021 will have their engine immobilizers standardized and that a software upgrade will be executed on all the cars. It explained that the models most prone to theft were entry-level models with no anti-theft security features.
“A subset of Hyundai vehicles on the road in the U.S. today – primarily ‘base trim’ or entry-level models – are not equipped with push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices,” Hyundai disclosed. “It is important to clarify that an engine immobilizer is an anti-theft device and these vehicles are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements. Thieves discovered a specific method by which to bypass the vehicles’ security features and then documented and promoted their exploits on TikTok and other social media channels.”
On its own part, Kia said a free and enhanced security software upgrade will be pushed out to all Kia owners and that steering wheel locks will be provided to them at no costs whatsoever. It said more than 165,000 eligible customers have had software upgrades with nearly two million more on the line for the enhancement. The automaker said more than 45,000 free steering wheel locks have been provided to owners of Kia vehicles and that more will be provided as they are needed.