Attorney General Tong Announces Investigation into Hyundai and Kia Over Theft-Prone Vehicles
(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong announced today he has launched a consumer protection investigation into Hyundai and Kia regarding the companies’ failure to equip their vehicles with industry standard anti-theft technology. The move is the latest in a series of steps Attorney General Tong has taken over the companies’ continued failure to address the public safety concerns of their vehicles.
Kia and Hyundai chose not to include engine immobilizers as standard equipment on several vehicle models sold in the United States between 2011 and 2022, a period when every other car manufacturer was doing so. During this same time period, the companies were installing immobilizers on the same model vehicles sold in Canada and Europe. An anti-theft immobilizer is an electronic device which prevents a car from being hot-wired and stolen by someone who doesn't have the key.
These vehicles are being stolen at high rates, harming consumers and contributing to an erosion of public safety. The thefts have frequently been accompanied by reckless driving and further criminal activity, causing injuries and deaths. The thefts have even gone viral, with videos on social media showing how to hotwire these vehicles and challenging others to steal them. Following these videos, thefts began surging across the country.
The thefts have forced local law enforcement and first responders to divert scarce resources to increased patrols and theft investigations, antitheft initiatives such as the distribution of steering wheels locks, and public education about the dangerous trend. Hyundai and Kia vehicles stolen in this manner have been involved in numerous crashes and multiple fatalities nationwide, and the stolen vehicles have also been used to commit additional, sometimes violent, crimes.
Civil investigative demands sent to both Hyundai and Kia seek detailed records and information regarding susceptible vehicle sold in Connecticut, along with any complaints to the companies about the issue. The records requested include internal reports regarding the company’s decision-making, possible mitigation measures, the company’s anti-theft software and internal communications.
“We have called on Hyundai and Kia over and over again to make this right and address the glaring public safety vulnerabilities in their vehicles. Whatever they have done to date is clearly not working. We’ve got viral videos all over the internet teaching kids how to hotwire these cars in a matter of seconds and glorifying reckless driving that has resulted in injuries and multiple deaths nationwide. These cars are such sitting ducks that some insurers are reportedly now refusing to insure them, rendering them essentially undriveable. I’ve launched this investigation to force Hyundai and Kia to disclose every discussion and decision leading up to the sale of these theft-prone cars, as well as the costs and analysis of potential fixes. We are going to figure out exactly how this public safety threat came to be, and we will not hesitate to hold Hyundai and Kia fully accountable for addressing this disaster,” said Attorney General Tong.
“Personal vehicles are no small purchase for most families in our state, and consumers should be able to expect their purchase is safe from easy theft,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli. “Consumers should continue to take additional safety precautions such as using a steering wheel lock, and contact Hyundai or Kia regarding the free theft deterrent software they are offering to affected consumers.”
Attorney General Tong announced this investigation at a press conference today at the East Hartford Police Department.
"As the police chief of this community, our utmost priority is the safety and well-being of our residents. We commend the Attorney General's decision to launch an investigation into Hyundai and Kia. Consumer trust and confidence are paramount when it comes to the automotive industry, and any concerns regarding safety and compliance must be thoroughly addressed,” said East Hartford Police Chief Scott S. Sansom.
Last March, Attorney General Tong and a coalition of attorneys general urged the companies to address the safety concerns. Their letter noted that the companies’ software upgrades offered by the company were not compatible with all vehicles. Following continued failure by the companies to adequately address the vulnerabilities, Attorney General Tong joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in April calling for a federal recall of Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 which are particularly vulnerable to theft.
Assistant Attorney General Brendan Flynn and Deputy Associate Attorney General Michael Wertheimer, Chief of the Consumer Protection Section assisted Attorney General Tong in this matter.