At least eight deaths and numerous injuries and property damage have prompted attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia to call on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall model year 2011 through 2022 Hyundai and Kia vehicles.
In a letter to the agency the officials, led by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, say easily-bypassed ignition switches and lack of engine immobilizers make the vehicles particularly vulnerable to theft.
The letter notes that videos uploaded to the social media platform TikTok show how easy it is to steal the vehicles.
Using only a USB cable and a screwdriver, thieves bypassed the keyed ignition by prying off the steering wheel column, accessing the ignition switch, and starting the vehicle without a key in as little as 20 to 30 seconds.
In addition to Bonta, the letter was signed by attorneys general from Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Not all agree
Among those who did not sign the letter was Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. In a statement released last week and reported by Fox 5 Atlanta, he puts the blame on criminals, not the consumers or corporations.
"This approach is completely backward,” Car said. “The State of Georgia will not blame companies for the actions of criminals. We also refuse to put additional burden on companies in order to coddle criminals, as we are seeing being done in far too many cities and states around the country."
Fix or no fix?
Hyundai spokesman Ira Gabriel says the automaker has taken "comprehensive action" to assist its customers.
These actions, he told ConsumerAffairs, include making engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021 and reimbursing customers for their purchase of steering wheel locks.
But, as far as the AGs are concerned, the response doesn't go far enough and “ does not adequately remedy the safety concerns facing vehicle owners and the public.”
In short, they say, the starting systems are not in compliance with federal standards and pose an unreasonable risk to public safety.
The preferred solution, according to the letter, is for NHTSA to “exercise its authority to order a mandatory recall or ensure Hyundai and Kia institute a voluntary recall.”