HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut Attorney General William Tong wants Hyundai and Kia to pump the brakes on increased car thefts.
“I want them to pull these cars off the road now!” Tong said.
Tong is part of a coalition with 16 other states and the District of Columbia. They’re calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to force Hyundai and Kia to recall models manufactured between 2011 and 2022 that do not have anti-theft technology.
“I don’t want to hear how much money that’s going to cost. They know this is a problem. These vehicles are unsafe because they can be easily stolen,” Tong said during Thursday’s press conference in Waterbury.
The stolen cars are part of a dangerous social media trend, showing people how to hotwire Hyundais and Kias.
Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo says they’ve seen a surge in stolen cars since July 2022, including an incident on Feb. 7, when two women in a stolen Hyundai crashed head-on into a police cruiser.
Police say from July 2022 – April 2023, 579 total cars were stolen in Waterbury – 21% of them were Hyundai or Kia.
“We’re seeing [stolen cars] here in Waterbury on a daily basis. There are stolen cars there are involved with juvenile offenders, and more than half of those juvenile offenders are repeat offenders,” Spagnolo said.
Spagnolo says Waterbury averages 680 total car thefts each year, with a mix of them Hyundais and Kias.
As of April 20, they’ve received 189 reports in 2033 – up from about 90 this time last year.
Tong says attorney generals went to Hyundai and Kia in March, and although the companies are offering solutions such as free steering wheel locks and software patches, it’s not enough.
“If they don’t [recall the car models], we will evaluate all of our options and our legal options and will take necessary action to protect people here in Waterbury and across the state,” Tong said.
“Hyundai and Kia sold cars without industry-standard anti-theft devices, posing an unreasonable risk to public safety,” Tong said in a written announcement. “Viral videos show youth how to hotwire these cars in a matter of seconds, encouraging reckless driving and criminal activity that has resulted in injuries and deaths. I’ve called on Hyundai and Kia to fix this, quickly, and without nickel and diming their customers. They’ve failed and we can’t wait any longer. It’s time for the federal government to step in and force a recall.”
Vehicle theft for the models have skyrocketed since 2021. Tong’s announcement said that the thefts have “frequently been accompanied by reckless driving and further criminal activity, causing injuries and deaths.”
James Bell, Head of Corporate Communications for Kia America shared the following statement with News 8:
“To address these crimes, we continue to roll out a free, enhanced security software upgrade to restrict the unauthorized operation of vehicle ignition systems and we are also providing steering wheel locks for impacted owners at no cost to them. To date, Kia has contacted over two million owners and lessees of Kia vehicles to let them know of the availability of the software upgrade, and more than 165,000 eligible customers have already had the upgrade installed.“
The Kia customer care team can be contacted at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia) those who wish to learn more information about receiving a steering wheel lock can click here.
Ira Gabriel, senior group manager of corporate and marketing PR for Hyundai sent News 8 the following statement:
“Hyundai has taken comprehensive action to assist our customers, including: (1) made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021; (2) fully rolled out a free software upgrade to prevent the method of theft involved, two months ahead of schedule; (3) introduced a program in partnership with AAA insurers to offer insurance options in most states for eligible affected Hyundai customers; (4) initiated a program to reimburse affected customers for their purchase of steering wheel locks; (5) launched https://hyundaiantitheft.com/ to provide owners with information on all of the support options available and created a dedicated customer service support team and call center, 888-498-0390, to assist impacted owners.