Connecticut attorney general targets Hyundai, Kia over car thefts

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is threatening to sue both automakers if they don't recall millions of vehicles and add anti-theft protections.

John Craven

Jun 20, 2023, 9:31 PM

Updated 344 days ago


If you own a Hyundai or Kia, your car could be a moving target. Dozens of social media videos show how to steal them in seconds.
Now, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is threatening to sue both automakers if they don't recall millions of vehicles and add anti-theft protections.
“The state of Connecticut is now launching a full-blown consumer investigation,” Tong said during a Tuesday morning news conference at the East Hartford Police Department.
Police nationwide are seeing a huge surge in stolen Kias and Hyundais. In East Hartford, they now make up half of all auto thefts.
“We've had one – it was stolen from a home, then it was brought to be fixed,” said Police Chief Scott Sanson. “While it was being fixed, it was stolen twice.”
Hyundais and Kias are so easy to steal because, up until 2021, most models still used traditional keys without anti-theft technology, according to a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report.
Hyundai and Kia said all their cars meet federal anti-theft standards, but they are taking aggressive action to stop the wave of thefts.
“Contrary to the Attorney General’s claims today, Kia has taken and continues to take action to help our customers by making it more difficult for criminals to use methods of theft popularized on social media to steal certain vehicle models,” the company said in a statement.
Both automakers are helping customers get free steering wheel locks while they roll out a software fix.
“Hyundai is committed to continuing our efforts in completing the software upgrade for all affected vehicles in the most effective manner possible,” said spokesman Ira Gabriel. “We are communicating with NHTSA [National Highway Transportation Safety Administration] on our many actions to assist our customers.”
But that rollout is slow. So far, less than 15% of affected vehicles have gotten the software fix.
“This is not going to cut it, right? That's why we're here,” said Tong. “This is us stitching together – and the chief and the officers – stitching together a solution.”
In March, Tong and other attorneys general urged Kia and Hyundai to install anti-theft devices on all their vehicles. The next month, they asked NHTSA to issue a federal recall of 2011 through 2022 model years.
The problem is so bad that, in some states, Progressive and State Farm stopped writing new auto insurance policies for affected models, according to multiple news reports. AAA is offering insurance coverage to impacted Hyundai owners, according to Gabriel. Here in Connecticut, officials have been assured that both companies will continue coverage. “The Connecticut Insurance Department has received confirmation from both insurers that they continue to write auto policies for those vehicles,” a spokesperson from the Connecticut Insurance Department. “The Department would very much like to speak to anyone who has was told they could not get a policy for those cars from any insurer either by email at or by calling (860) 297-3900.”
But what about going after the actual thieves?
In the YouTube documentary "Kia Boys,” Milwaukee teens brag about facing few consequences for stealing cars:
Tommy G (host): “You only do three weeks for stealing a car?” Kia Boys Member: “Hell yes. It's a misdemeanor, s***.” Tommy G: “So is there really no punishment for this?” Kia Boys Member: “Hell no.”
In Connecticut, lawmakers recently cracked down on repeat offenders.
Auto theft penalties are now being determined by the suspect's criminal record, not the car's value – a move likely to mean stiffer charges and sentences. Also, police can hold minors up to eight hours and a judge must arraign them within five days. Judges can also order GPS monitoring for repeat offenders.
But Tong said carmakers need to do their part, too.
“They did some things, but whatever they're doing is not enough,” he said.
If you own a Hyundai, click here or call (888) 498-0390.
If you own a Kia, click here.

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