Two Major Car Companies are More at Risk of Being Stolen

18 states are calling for a federal recall.

When it comes to successful car theft, not all brands are created equal.

That’s proving to be a big problem for two major manufacturers.

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta led a coalition of 18 states Thursday in calling for a federal recall of Hyundai  (HYMLF) and Kia cars because they have been proven more vulnerable to theft.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported last year that “theft claims were nearly twice as common for Hyundai and Kia vehicles as for all other manufacturers.” 

A Tik Tok Trend is Part of the Problem

This spike in the theft of Hyundai and Kia vehicles is a result of two things. 

One is a TikTok trend that began in 2021 showing users how to hotwire cars and challenging them to do it.

The second is the fact that most Kia and Hyundai vehicles manufactured between 2015 and 2019 lack a standard electronic immobilizer which prevents thieves from bypassing a car’s ignition.

These immobilizers, according to the IIHS, were standard on 62% of cars made by other manufacturers in 2000. In 2015, they were a standard on 96% of other manufacturers’ vehicles, but only on 26% of cars made by Kia and Hyundai.

Thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles in Los Angeles increased by more than 80% in 2022, according to Bonta, and made up around 20% of LA’s stolen cars. This is a statistic that is similarly reflected in Berkeley, CA.

This push for a federal recall comes one month after the California AG published an open letter to Kia and Hyundai, calling on the Korean car-makers to remedy the issue.

The automakers in February developed and launched new anti-theft software that they offered to provide free to affected vehicle owners. But Bonta said in March that the software upgrade did not go far enough to address the problem.

“The bottom line is, 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,” Bonta said in a statement. “Instead of taking responsibility with appropriate corrective action, these carmakers have chosen instead to pass this risk onto consumers and our communities.”

Representatives of Kia and Hyundai have reiterated their commitment to remedying the issue in a statement sent to The Street. Both carmakers are continuing the rollout of their software updates and Hyundai is partnering with AAA to offer insurance options for affected owners. Hyundai standardized immobilizers on all vehicles as of Nov. 2021.

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