California and 17 States Request Hyundai and Kia Recall

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April 27, 2023
Edward Smith

Thefts Prompt 18 States to Seek Hyundai and Kia Recall

In response to a surge in car thefts due to a viral social media challenge, attorney generals from 18 states, including California, are calling for the recall of millions of Kia and Hyundai vehicles, citing that the cars are too easy to steal.

Several models of Kia and Hyundai vehicles sold in the United States over the past decade do not come with engine immobilizers, a standard safety feature on most cars that prevent the engine from starting unless the key is present.

Social Media Challenge Increases Vehicle Thefts

According to the California attorney general’s office, using a screwdriver and a USB cable to start Kia and Hyundai models has been demonstrated in social media videos, particularly on TikTok. This method has contributed to an 85 percent rise in car thefts of these brands in Los Angeles in 2022, which accounts for 20 percent of all car thefts in the city.

Social media-inspired thefts have led to tragedy, causing 14 reported crashes and eight deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has attributed the stolen car trend to these incidents.

Nationwide Safety Concerns

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said that Kia and Hyundai’s failure to include standard safety features on many vehicles put car owners and the public at risk. Instead of addressing the safety concerns, these carmakers transferred the risk to consumers and communities.

Bonta is working with general attorneys in other states, including from the District of Columbia, Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington, to seek the nationwide recall.

Hyundai and Kia Offer Software Update

Kia said in a statement that it addresses the issue, with over 165,000 customers having had the software installed and more than two million owners contacted about it. The automaker claimed its vehicles comply with federal safety standards, making a recall unnecessary.

Hyundai also maintained that its vehicles meet federal anti-theft requirements and that it rolled out the software upgrade two months ahead of schedule. However, it did not disclose how many vehicles received the upgrade.

Hyundai and Kia declared in February 2023 that they will offer software updates for vehicles that mandate the key to start the car in the ignition switch. The update will increase the duration of the theft alarm from 30 seconds to one minute. The software update suits about 3.8 million Hyundai and 4.5 million Kia cars.

NHTSA to Monitor the Issue

Even though the Hyundai and Kia thefts are classified as criminal conduct under the jurisdiction of law enforcement, the NHTSA has held discussions with the automakers about the theft vulnerability, software, and hardware in the affected models. However, it should be noted that the service campaign by the Korean automakers does not involve any reporting requirements and is not closely monitored by the NHTSA, thus not considered a recall.

NHTSA stated that it is receiving regular updates on the companies’ plans. It will continue to monitor the issue, raise awareness of updates to local authorities, and lend its expertise to enhance motor vehicle safety.

Hyundai has confirmed that all models manufactured after November 1, 2021, have immobilizers as standard equipment.

The YouTube video below from KTLA 5 News reports the rise of Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts due to a new TikTok trend.

Northern California Personal Injury Lawyer

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