Hyundai, Kia thefts: Twin Cities mayors, AG call for safety recall

The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison are calling on Kia and Hyundai to issue a recall and outfit all vehicles with industry-standard anti-theft technology to curb the spike in vehicle thefts in the Twin Cities metro.

RELATED: Kias and Hyundais now most stolen cars in Minneapolis, data shows

In a joint letter to the North American CEOs of Kia and Hyundai dated March 2, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Ellison want the carmakers to immediately recall all vehicles that are missing engine immobilizers, which is an industry-standard anti-theft technology and to equip all new vehicles with the same safety updates. 

The letter (find it at the bottom of the page) says there's been a drastic increase in Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts — a 836% increase in Minneapolis and a 611% increase in St. Paul — over the past year, with may of the thefts being connected to other violent crimes in the Twin Cities. 

"The number of crimes committed in connection to stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles are staggering - and we’ve lost lives in our community as a result," said Carter in a news release. "This is an urgent public safety risk that must be immediately addressed."


Kia and Hyundai, (FOX 9)

Kia and Hyundai recently announced that a free anti-theft software upgrade is available for certain models without engine immobilizers, but Ellison said it's not enough.

"They need to do more than just take care of the people who approach them. And all these solutions have been late. I mean, up until very recently, they've been asking consumers to pay for this fix," Ellison said.

"This crime is preventable and has a clear solution," said Mayor Frey. "The type of car you have should not make you an automatic target of heinous violence and random crimes. There is an onus on these car companies to do the bare minimum here, which is including the industry-standard anti-theft software."  

"They created a big problem. They've earned an enormous profit by doing it, and it's incumbent upon them to be part of the solution with us," Carter said.

"People have lost their lives. There's shootings, there's robberies, and they're disproportionately focused on Kia and Hyundais. There's impact to our underlying city budget. There's impact to our officers’ time that is spent on this theft, when it could be spent on preventing a shooting from happening," Frey said.

Reports nationally show Kia and Hyundai vehicles are vulnerable to theft due to lacking engine immobilizers and push-to-start key systems. Not only that, but there are social media challenges that show how easy it is to hack into Kia and Hyundai vehicles, with the challenges encouraging people to try it. 

Hyundai statement

Hyundai's representatives sent the following statement to FOX 9 in response to the mayors' and AG's calls:

"Hyundai is committed to the security of our customers and plans to continue our ongoing support of the communities affected by this theft issue.  We appreciate and share Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s interest in addressing the rise in thefts of these vehicles in Minnesota and elsewhere.  We recently announced the launch of a free software upgrade to prevent the theft mode popularized on social media; we will also soon launch a program to reimburse eligible customers for their purchase of steering wheel locks."

Kia, Hyundai thefts in St. Paul

According to a news release, in 2022 the City of St. Paul had 953 reported thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles, which is a 611% increase from the same time in 2021. What's more, more than 66 Kia and Hyundai vehicle owners had their vehicles stolen more than once, while six people had their vehicles stolen three times. 

Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts made up 30% of all vehicle thefts in St. Paul last year. 

Kia, Hyundai thefts in Minneapolis

In 2022, the City of Minneapolis had 2,340 reported thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles, which is an 836% increase from the same time in 2021. More than 132 vehicle owners had their cars stolen more than once, and five owners had their vehicles stolen three times. 

RELATED: Kia thefts: Minneapolis woman's car targeted 3 times in 6 months

Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts made up 37% of all vehicle thefts in Minneapolis last year. 

What's more, the City of Minneapolis says many of the stolen vehicles were used in violent crimes or involved in traffic crashes, including some fatal — a 14-year-old boy was killed last year after getting into a single-vehicle crash that involved a stolen Kia. 

"The ease and sheer volume with which these Kia and Hyundais were stolen creates too many opportunities for both crime and tragedy," Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said in a news release. "These vehicle thefts have endangered the lives of innocent people of all ages in all corners of Minneapolis. These vehicles are used to facilitate more serious crime and harm in our communities. And children not even old enough to have a learners’ permit have died while behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle. This epidemic needs to be addressed by both car owners and the manufacturers."   

In the past year, Kia or Hyundai vehicle thefts were tied to five homicides, 13 shootings, 36 robberies, and 265 car crashes.