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17 States Are Demanding a Mass Recall of "Unsafe" Hyundai and Kia Cars

The vehicles are easily stolen due to a lack of safety features, attorneys general say.

Car recalls are more common than we'd like: According to Consumer Reports, tens of millions of vehicles are subject to recall annually. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) oversees these recalls, which are announced when vehicles "pose a risk to motor vehicle safety." We typically trust the NHTSA to be on top of any pressing safety concerns, but states say there's a glaring issue that has yet to be addressed. Read on to find out why they're asking the administration to "exercise its authority" and issue a mandatory recall for "unsafe" Hyundai and Kia cars.

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Both Kia and Hyundai cars are easily stolen.

Close up on car thief hand pulling the handle of a car. Car thief, car theft concept

On Thursday, April 20, attorneys general (AGs) from 17 states and Washington, D.C., sent a letter to the NHTSA asking the agency to institute a mandatory recall for certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022. The AGs pointed to the "vulnerability in their starting systems," which allows the cars to be hot-wired and stolen in just a few minutes.

"The vehicles' ignition switches can be easily bypassed by removing the steering wheel column cover, accessing the keyed ignition, and turning it with a USB cable or similar shaped item," the letter reads, asserting that this flaw violates federal motor vehicle safety standards.

The AGs further alleged that these cars don't have backup security in the form of engine immobilizers, which prevent vehicles from starting unless a unique code is transmitted from the car key. These have been "industry-standard," the AGs said, and because Kia and Hyundai cars don't have them, they're more vulnerable.

"Thefts of these Hyundai and Kia vehicles have led to at least eight deaths, numerous injuries and property damage, and they have diverted significant police and emergency services resources from other priorities," the letter states.

Thefts went viral on social media.

tiktok logo on ihpone
XanderSt / Shutterstock

A recall (ordered by the NHTSA or voluntarily issued by Hyundai and Kia) is even more important, the AGs argued, as the vehicles' "vulnerability" went viral on social media.

Since 2021, TikTok users have allegedly been documenting themselves stealing these vehicles, but lately, numbers have skyrocketed, per the letter. In 2022, thefts of Hyundais and Kias were up by 85 percent, and in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, thefts were up by 836 percent and 611 percent, respectively, last year.

The letter goes on to state that these crimes endanger the public, as thieves drive recklessly, "speeding and performing wild stunts." As for Kia and Hyundai owners, they're saddled with payments to repair stolen vehicles or find other methods of transportation, according to the AGs.

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Both Kia and Hyundai said they're working to solve ongoing problems.

kia car in lot
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

In a statement to Best Life, a spokesperson for Kia America said the company "remains very focused on this issue" and continues "to take action to address the concerns these Attorneys General have raised."

The company added that it is working with law enforcement in different states "to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it."

But the company also claims that all Kia vehicles are compliant with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including those regarding theft protection measures.

"Because there is no defect in the security features in any of these vehicles and because these specific models comply fully with all applicable federal standards, a recall is neither appropriate nor necessary under federal law," Kia said.

For its part, Hyundai told Best Life that it is in communication with the NHTSA about how to assist customers, adding that Hyundai vehicles are "fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements."

According to the NHTSA, the criminal activity falls under the responsibility of law enforcement. However, officials from the administration have met with both Hyundai and Kia to address the situation and will continue to spread awareness and lend its expertise in the area of motor vehicle safety, a spokesperson told Best Life.

State AGs say software upgrades aren't enough.

hyundai logo on steering wheel
Roman Vyshnikov / Shutterstock

In February, both Hyundai and Kia announced that they would provide free security software upgrades. Hyundai confirmed that its upgrade has already been rolled out, and added that the company has also partnered with AAA to offer insurance options to eligible customers. In addition, engine immobilizers have been added to all Hyundai vehicles produced as of Nov. 2021.

Kia said that it will "continue to roll out a free, enhanced security software upgrade to restrict the unauthorized operation of vehicle ignition systems" and provide free steering wheel locks for affected drivers.

According to officials, however, this isn't going to cut it.

"This is an insufficient response to the problem and does not adequately remedy the safety concerns facing vehicle owners and the public," the AGs' letter reads. "First, it will reportedly take months to release software updates for all models, and more troubling, an update is not even feasible for a significant percentage of the affected vehicles. Second, this voluntary service campaign lacks the notice and other regulatory requirements of a noncompliance or safety recall process and thus is unlikely to remedy as many vehicles as necessary in a timely manner."

The most recent letter follows another sent last month by over two dozen state attorneys general, NPR reported. The previous letter demanded "swift and comprehensive action" to address the rising number of stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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