Ellison demands recall as part of settlement over defective Kia, Hyundai vehicles

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is once again urging a recall on millions of Kia and Hyundai vehicles that have a defect that makes them prone to theft.

In a letter filed last week, Ellison and six other attorneys general asked the California federal judge overseeing a class-action lawsuit to force the automakers to recall the affected models due to the settlement’s “failure to adequately respond to the ongoing public safety crisis” of stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

As part of a settlement, Kia and Hyundai must install an anti-theft software upgrade on 6.9 million eligible vehicles within 360 days of providing notice of availability or within 360 days of the settlement approval. For the other 2.3 million vehicles that aren’t eligible for the software upgrade, vehicle owners can be reimbursed up to $300 for purchasing steering wheel locks or anti-theft systems.

Ellison argues the software upgrade rollout has been too slow and is now asking for a recall to install engine immobilizers in all affected vehicles, along with a buyback program.

Kia and Hyundai first announced the software upgrade in February and, as of May, were installing the patch in 6,000 vehicles per day, Ellison wrote.

Two weeks ago, a Hyundai spokesperson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that 17.5% of 4 million eligible vehicles had received the upgrade.

That percentage is too low to have made a difference, Ellison wrote, adding that the remaining 2.3 million vehicles that can’t get the upgrade will still be vulnerable.

‚ÄúThis issue is simple: too many Kia and Hyundai vehicles lack industry-standard anti-theft technology that nearly every other vehicle in America has,” Ellison said in a statement. “Because Kia and Hyundai continue to refuse to voluntarily recall these vehicles and install at their own expense the technology the vehicles should have had in the first place, public safety in Minnesota and across the country is still at risk.”

Hyundai spokesperson Ira Gabriel did not directly address Ellison’s filing in a statement.

“Hyundai is committed to the comprehensive actions we are undertaking to assist customers and communities affected by the persistent theft of certain vehicles not equipped with push-button ignitions and engine immobilizers,” Gabriel wrote. “Our dealers across the country are maximizing the number of anti-theft software installations that can be performed on a daily basis, contributing to steadily increasing completion rates, which we report to NHTSA weekly.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to Kia for a statement but has not heard back. 

Thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles have surged over the past two years thanks to a viral video that demonstrates how some ignition-start models can be stolen using just a USB cable. Ellison and other Minnesota leaders have repeatedly claimed these stolen vehicles are disproportionately linked to other crimes.

Auto insurers are taking notice, too. Some major companies are now refusing to write comprehensive coverage policies for vulnerable models, and others have reported their premiums doubling when renewing their policies.