June 7, 2023

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More than a dozen prosecutors say stolen Hyundais and Kias should be easily recalled

(CNN) A coalition of attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia on Thursday called for a federal recall of Hyundai and Kia vehicles they say are unsafe and unsafe. It is very easy to steal.

The attorney general called for a recall “after the companies’ continued failure to take appropriate steps to address the alarming rate of thefts of their vehicles,” a statement from California Attorney General Rob Ponta, who leads the coalition, said.

In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the coalition requested the recall of “unsafe” Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 “whose easily overridden ignition switches and lack of engine mounts make them particularly vulnerable to theft.”

The vehicles in question, 2015-2019 Hyundai and Kia models such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Tucson, Kia Forte and Sportage, when equipped with a ready ignition – unlike cars that only require a button to start – are twice as likely to be stolen than other vehicles in the same class. age. Many of these vehicles lack some of the basic auto theft-prevention technology built into most other vehicles, even in those years, according to the Highway Data Institute, an industry group that tracks insurance statistics.

NHTSA replied that this is not something the agency could ask to be subpoenaed.

“This particular matter concerns willful criminal conduct that is within the jurisdiction of law enforcement authorities,” the Motor Safety Agency said in a statement. “However, since last year, NHTSA has met repeatedly with Hyundai and Kia to discuss contributing causes to the theft vulnerability, review the range of different software and hardware in affected models, and receive regular updates on the companies’ action plans.”

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These models became the subject of a widespread trend on social media in which thieves filmed themselves and others stealing Hyundai and Kia cars and taking them for a drive. In some parts of the country, the problem has become so bad that some insurance companies have refused to write new policies on Hyundai and Kia models in places where thefts have become so common.

The models in question do not have electronic immobilizers, which rely on a computer chip in the vehicle and another in the key that communicates to make sure the key belongs to that vehicle. Without the correct key, the immobilizer has to do just that – stop the vehicle from moving.

“Hyundai and Kia have announced that they will launch voluntary service campaigns to provide software updates for specific vehicles with a start system vulnerability. Unfortunately, however, this is an inadequate response to the problem and does not adequately address the safety concerns facing vehicle owners and owners,” the letter to NHSTA said.

Hyundai said in a statement on Friday that it is “committed to ensuring the quality and safety of our products.”

“A subset of Hyundai vehicles on the road in the United States today—primarily ‘base model’ or entry-level models—are not equipped with push-button ignition and theft-deterrent devices,” Hyundai said. “It is important to clarify that the engine immobilizer is an anti-theft device and that These vehicles are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements. Thieves have figured out a specific way they can bypass vehicle security features and then document and promote their exploits on TikTok and other social media channels. “

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

Kia said Friday that it “remains very focused on this issue and we will continue to take action to address the concerns raised by these prosecutors. 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.”

Kia added that it “will continue to offer a free, enhanced security software upgrade to restrict unauthorized operation of vehicles’ ignition systems, and we are offering steering wheel locks to affected owners at no cost to them.”

“To date, Kia has contacted more than 2 million owners and renters of Kia vehicles to let them know the availability of the software upgrade, and more than 165,000 eligible customers have already installed the upgrade,” the automaker said. Furthermore, in addition to providing over 39,000 free steering wheel locks to over 275 law enforcement agencies nationwide for distribution to affected Kia owners, we have shipped approximately 8,000 locks directly to affected owners as well. We will continue to provide more. Free locks as needed.

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

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The patch will install for free on the models that need it, with software that requires a physical key in the ignition to start the vehicle. The software will also prevent the vehicle from starting after the doors are locked using the key fob remote control. The car will need to be unlocked before you can start it.

The program also extends the length of the beep from 30 seconds to a full minute. Hyundai dealers will also place stickers on the windows stating that anti-theft software is installed in the vehicle.

“Bottom line, the failure of Kia and Hyundai to install standard safety features on many of their vehicles has put car owners and the public at risk,” Ponta Prosecutor said. “We are now asking the federal government to require these companies to right their wrongs with a national recall and to assist us in our continued efforts to protect the public from these unsafe vehicles.”

Recalls are ordered by NHTSA or, more commonly, made by automakers to correct safety-related defects. The attorney general’s letter asserts that easy theft of Hyundai and Kia vehicles poses a safety risk and that the vehicles fail to meet federal theft prevention standards.

“Moreover, the thieves drove these vehicles recklessly, speeding and making wild movements and causing many accidents, no less than eight deaths, and serious injuries,” the letter read.

CNN’s Aaron Silverman contributed to this report