"Kia's and Hyundai's failure to install standard safety features on many of their vehicles have put vehicle owners and the public at risk," said California AG Rob Bonta.
The attorneys general of 18 states are calling on federal regulators to recall certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles at high risk of being stolen due to a lack of essential security features, reports Reuters.
Thieves have targeted certain cars from these Korean automakers since a bizarre Tik Tok challenge went viral. Vehicles made between 2010 and 2021, which include the Kia Soul and Hyundai Tucson, have been left vulnerable as many were not equipped with simple features like engine immobilizers.
California attorney general Rob Bonta said this has put motorists and the public at risk. "Kia's and Hyundai's failure to install standard safety features on many of their vehicles have put vehicle owners and the public at risk." The states have also written to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to express their worries.
Even though the afflicted vehicles were not equipped with something as simple as an engine immobilizer, the companies believe a recall isn't required. "These specific models comply fully with all applicable federal standards, a recall is neither appropriate nor necessary under federal law," said Kia. Surprisingly, engine immobilizers are not mandated by federal requirements.
As such, thieves have found a way to steal these cars using only a USB and a screwdriver. At the height of the problem, Kia had said it would provide steering wheel lock devices to owners, while Hyundai claimed it had identified a security kit that would stop these thefts from occurring.
In February, both manufacturers said they would roll out a free anti-theft software upgrade to 8.3 million vehicles. The fix would see the vehicle control module updated to activate an 'ignition kill' feature that would activate when the car is locked with the key fob.
Despite this, government officials are not satisfied. "Instead of taking responsibility with appropriate corrective action, these carmakers have chosen instead to pass this risk onto consumers and our communities," added Bonta. The California attorney general added that the immobilizer was fitted to Kia and Hyundai vehicles sold in Europe and Canada. Still, the simple feature was reportedly omitted in the United States.
This isn't the first time lawmakers and politicians have weighed in on the matter. In December 2021, the city of Milwaukee considered suing Kia and Hyundai after thefts began to surge in the region. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute, theft claims for Hyundai and Kia models were nearly twice as high as 2015 - 2019 vehicles from other manufacturers.
If the attorneys general are successful and Hyundai and Kia are forced to recall millions of vehicles, it could cost both automakers millions to right this wrong.
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