Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is joining a nationwide call for Kia and Hyundai to recall all vehicles with a defect that makes them vulnerable to theft.
Ellison was one of 17 attorneys general who co-signed a letter from California Attorney General Rob Ponta to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday alleging that automakers have not done enough to fix vehicles without engine mounts. The flaw was found on Kia and Hyundai models built with key-switch ignition from 2011 to 2022.
Last year, Ellison’s office launched an investigation into whether automakers violated Minnesota consumer protection and public nuisance laws. In March, Ellison and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter wrote to the companies asking them to recall the defective vehicles and install “industry-standard missing anti-theft technology.”
The exploitation of the design flaw by car thieves, which went viral on social media, led to an 893% increase in thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in Minneapolis and a 611% increase in St. Paul over the past year. Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara has repeatedly claimed that these easily stolen vehicles encourage criminals to commit other crimes.
“These vehicles have been stolen at high rates since roughly 2021, harming consumers and contributing to the erosion of public safety,” Ellison wrote. “Thefts were frequently accompanied by reckless driving and other criminal activity, causing injuries and deaths.”
The Minnesota legislature is moving to act as well. Lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require all vehicles produced within the past 10 years to install anti-theft devices.
Meanwhile, some insurance companies are considering dropping coverage for vulnerable vehicles.
Hyundai spokesman Ira Gabriel said the company has placed the engine immobilizer system standard on vehicles made since November 2021 and has “fully launched” a free software upgrade two months ahead of schedule. He added that Hyundai has partnered with AAA to connect Hyundai owners with insurance companies and has begun reimbursing customers who purchased steering wheel locks.
“Hyundai is committed to continuing our efforts to complete the software upgrade for all affected vehicles in the most efficient manner,” Gabriel said in a statement. “We are communicating with NHTSA about our many actions to assist our customers.”
Kia spokesman James Bell said the company has contacted more than two million car owners about installing a free upgrade to the anti-theft software. To date, only 165,000 of these have received the upgrade. The company said it has also provided more than 39,000 steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies and nearly 8,000 locks directly to customers.
“Kia remains very focused on this case and we continue to take action to address the concerns raised by these prosecutors,” Bell wrote. “We are committed to working with them and law enforcement agencies across their states to combat auto theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it.”
Ellison refuted that many car owners will have to wait until June for software upgrades. Furthermore, some affected models are not eligible for software upgrades at all. He added that the option to have steering wheel locks “puts additional burdens on owners and does not address the fundamental flaw in the ignition system that makes vehicles vulnerable to theft.”
Kia and Hyundai have it [had] More than enough time to voluntarily fix this problem. “Now is the time for the federal government to step in and authorize a recall of these vehicles,” Ellison said in a statement.
Read the full letter to NHTSA below:
“Beer aficionado. Gamer. Alcohol fanatic. Evil food trailblazer. Avid bacon maven.”