ST. LOUIS–City homicide levels have now surpassed year-to-date levels in 2021 in St. Louis and public safety officials say the “serious explosion” of thefts involving Kia and Hyundai models has contributed to the rise in violent crime, and that city lawyers are exploring legal action against the manufacturers.
St. Louis has had 129 homicides reported year-to-date. It had 121 in 2021, both down from 171 in 2020.
Thieves have exploited a security flaw to bypass ignition systems in recent Kia and Hyundai model years.
Last month, Spectrum News reported that the city was seeing roughly 300 more car thefts than it had at the same time in 2021.
At the time, the manufacturers said their 2022 models came standard with an engine immobilizer.
“In my opinion that’s not an acceptable solution when you have a defective product of millions of cars in the market, in the public space, Dr. Daniel Isom, St. Louis’ Public Safety Director told Spectrum News Monday.
Isom said authorities have connected the rise in violent crime in part to the added mobility criminals have gained by stealing Hyundai and Kia models.
“There are several cities that are working on litigation that could potentially hold the manufacturers accountable for the damage that they are causing not only to individuals but to the community so our legal department is working to explore ways in which we can hopefully hold them accountable but more importantly to fix the problems with their vehicles,” Isom said.
A Hyundai spokesperson said it has supported local police efforts to make steering wheel locks available and has found a security kit that can be bought and installed starting October 1. A Kia statement said in part, “Kia America has provided steering wheel lock devices at no cost to law enforcement in affected areas to deter vandalism and theft. That effort will continue in close coordination with local police departments for distribution to concerned owners of Kia vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer.”
Full company statements to Spectrum News August 22, 2022
Hyundai Motor America is concerned about the recent rise in auto thefts of certain Hyundai model vehicles. While all of our vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media. Criminals are targeting our vehicles without engine immobilizers. Immobilizers became standard on all vehicles produced after November 1, 2021.
In order to assist customers with earlier model year vehicles without an immobilizer, Hyundai has been working with and will continue to support local police departments to make steering wheel locks available for affected Hyundai owners. Additionally, Hyundai has identified a Firstech / Compustar security kit that targets the method of entry thieves are using to access these vehicles.
Beginning October 1, 2022, this security kit will be available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar authorized installers across the country. Hyundai will provide additional details soon, and customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151.
Kia America remains concerned about the increase in auto thefts of a subset of Kia vehicles. It is unfortunate that criminals are using social media to target vehicles without engine immobilizers in a coordinated effort. All of our vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
While no car can be made theft-proof, criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key and “turn-to-start” ignition system. The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and “push-button-to-start” system, making them more difficult to steal. All 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the model year or as a running change.
Kia America has provided steering wheel lock devices at no cost to law enforcement in affected areas to deter vandalism and theft. That effort will continue in close coordination with local police departments for distribution to concerned owners of Kia vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer.
Kia customers with questions regarding their specific vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542(4Kia).