Illinois Congressman Sorensen Demands Action from Kia and Hyundai Over Vehicle Thefts
Congressman Eric Sorensen (IL-17) today issued a letter to CEOs of Kia and Hyundai demanding accountability for car thefts caused by a security flaw in the automakers’ vehicles.
“The epidemic of Kia and Hyundai thefts caused by negligence from major auto manufacturers has disproportionately fallen on honest consumers and local law enforcement officers, who are working tirelessly to keep up with these crimes,” said Sorensen. “That’s why I’m writing the CEOs of Kia and Hyundai directly to demand accountability and ensure they are working with local police and vehicle owners to right their mistakes as quickly as possible.”
Video footage of Congressman Sorensen’s full remarks on the letter to automakers is available for use by the press here.
“From 2022 to 2023, there was a 199 percent increase in Hyundais stolen and a 181 percent increase in Kia’s stolen in the Greater Peoria area. These number are unacceptable, and the manufacturers need to correct the issue at hand. They have the solution but have failed their consumers by not recalling these vehicles and correcting the problem by adding the theft immobilizers needed. Our victims, the community, and law enforcement are tired of the rampant vehicle theft, given that the automakers have the solution in hand,” said Peoria Chief of Police Eric Echevarria.
In recent years, Kia and Hyundai thefts have skyrocketed due to the lack of a critical anti-theft device in many of the manufacturers’ vehicles. The lack of this security barrier makes certain Kia and Hyundai models highly susceptible to being stolen using simple tools found at home. Widely circulated instructional videos on social media have accelerated this practice, burdening Illinois communities.
The letter points out that, while the companies have taken incremental steps to make up for the defect, not nearly enough has been done to alleviate the burden on families and law enforcement.
You can read the full letter here and below:
Dear Mr. Yoon and Mr. Muñoz:
I write today on behalf of my constituents and local police departments who continue to grapple with a staggering number of Kia and Hyundai thefts. The skyrocketing number of stolen cars is the result of a longstanding security flaw that I urge your respective companies to step up efforts to address. While Kia and Hyundai have taken incremental steps to remedy the issue, motor vehicle thefts continue to occur to an unacceptable degree in my district and across the country. In addition to victimizing vehicle owners, the thefts put an inordinate burden on law enforcement who are already operating under limited resources. I urge you to take responsibility for the ongoing thefts and provide consumers and local police departments with the assistance they need to protect their vehicles.
In Peoria, Illinois, Kia and Hyundai thefts nearly doubled between 2023 and year-to-date in 2023. At the same time, stolen Kia and Hyundai models constitute a growing portion of all auto thefts and now account for most stolen vehicles in Peoria. In fact, thefts have become so commonplace, that two insurers announced earlier this year that they would no longer issue policies for certain Hyundai and Kia models in select states.
For more than a decade, Kia and Hyundai models were designed and manufactured without engine immobilizers, a critical anti-theft device that is standard in most other vehicles. As a result, these models could easily be started with a screwdriver and USB drive, making the vehicles highly susceptible to theft. Customers and local police departments continue to pay the price for the automakers’ decision to cut corners. How-to videos on TikTok and social media accelerated the trend of teenagers encouraging others to steal cars as a sport and has contributed to the number of thefts.
While engine immobilizers are now standard on Hyundai models manufactured after November 2021, an estimated 9 million older models remain on the roads. While Kia and Hyundai have instituted theft prevention measures, which include free software updates and reimbursing consumers for steering wheel locks, it is unclear how many consumers have taken advantage of these offers. However, it is clear that the thefts continue to pose a significant problem for vehicle owners and law enforcement. I applaud Hyundai’s recently announced decision to stand up temporary anti-theft software service centers across the country at no cost to the consumer. I encourage both Hyundai and Kia to assist local police departments and vehicle owners in my district to fullest extent possible.
In that spirit, I request Kia America, Inc. and Hyundai Motor North America provide responses to the following questions within 30 days of receiving this letter.
- Can you give a status update on your efforts to distribute steering wheel locks to local police departments and car owners?
- What efforts have you made to engage local police departments and vehicle owners in Central and Northwestern Illinois?
- What are your plans to expand free software update clinics to regional dealerships and areas outside the five initial U.S. cities, including in Central and Northwestern Illinois?
- What additional steps do you plan to take to address the rise in Kia and Hyundai auto thefts?
I urge your prompt attention to this critical matter.