Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is joining a nationwide call for Kia and Hyundai to recall all defective vehicles that are vulnerable to theft.
Ellison was one of 17 attorneys general who co-signed a letter from California Attorney General Rob Bonda to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday. The defect is found in Kia and Hyundai models built with key-switch ignitions from 2011 to 2022.
Last year, Ellison’s office opened an investigation into whether the automakers violated Minnesota’s consumer protection and public nuisance laws. In March, Ellison asked Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter to recall the damaged vehicles and install “the missing industry-standard anti-theft technology.
Car thieves took advantage of a design flaw that went viral on social media, with Kia and Hyundai thefts up 893% in Minneapolis and 611% in St. Paul in the past year. Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara has repeatedly said these easily stolen vehicles are an incentive for criminals to commit other crimes.
“These vehicles are likely to be stolen at high rates beginning in 2021, harming consumers and contributing to the erosion of public safety,” Ellison wrote. “Thefts are often accompanied by reckless driving and further criminal activity that results in injuries and deaths.”
The Minnesota Legislature is also moving to act. Lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require anti-theft devices to be installed on all vehicles manufactured in the past 10 years.
Meanwhile, some insurance companies are considering dropping coverage for vulnerable vehicles.
Hyundai spokesman Ira Gabriel said the company has standardized engine immobilization on vehicles manufactured since November 2021 and “fully rolled out” the free software update two months earlier. He said Hyundai has partnered with AAA to connect owners with insurers and has begun refunding customers who purchased steering wheel locks.
“Hyundai is committed to continuing our efforts to complete the software update for all affected vehicles as efficiently as possible,” Gabriel said in a statement. “We interact with NHTSA in many of our actions to help our customers.”
Kia spokesman James Bell said the company has contacted more than 2 million car owners about installing the free anti-theft software update; To date, only 165,000 of them have been upgraded. The company says it has supplied more than 39,000 steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies and nearly 8,000 locks directly to customers.
“Kia is very focused on this issue, and we continue to take steps to address the concerns raised by this attorney general,” Bell wrote. “We are committed to working with them and law enforcement agencies in their respective states to combat car theft and the role social media has played in promoting it.”
Ellison denied that many car owners will have to wait until June for the software update; Also, some affected models are not eligible for software updates. He said the option to get steering wheel locks “places additional burdens on owners and does not address the fundamental ignition system flaw that makes vehicles more vulnerable to theft.”
“There is Kia and Hyundai [had] Enough time to fix this problem voluntarily. “It is time for the federal government to take action to recall these vehicles,” Ellison said in a statement.
Read the full letter to NHTSA below: