Eighteen attorneys general are asking for the initiation of a recall of Kia and Hyundai car models that lack anti-theft controls.
In recent months, Kia and Hyundai models manufactured between 2011 and 2022 have seen increasing rates of theft following social media challenges urging people to steal the cars with the help of a screwdriver and USB Cable. Some of the thefts have been posted on social media using the hashtag #KiaBoyz.
"Thefts of these Hyundai and Kia vehicles have led to at least eight deaths, numerous injuries and property damage, and they have diverted significant police and emergency services resources from other priorities," the attorneys general wrote in a joint letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
A voluntary service campaigns by Hyundai and Kia to allow drivers to get software updates was an "insufficient response to the problem," the attorneys general wrote.
The recalls will take months and "more troubling, an update is not even feasible for a significant percentage of the affected vehicles," the letter said. The attorneys general added that the voluntary service campaign "is unlikely to remedy as many vehicles as necessary in a timely manner."
"The absence of anti-theft measures in cars manufactured by Kia and Hyundai has resulted in a significant increase in auto thefts -- and collateral public safety issues -- across the District and country. In the District, Kias and Hyundais accounted for a significant portion of cars recovered in 2022, and an even greater portion in 2023," Washington, D.C., Attorney General Brian Schwalb, who signed the letter, told ABC News.
In 2022, thefts of Hyundai's and Kia's increased nation wide. In Los Angles, the city saw an 85 percent increase in car thefts in 2022, Kia and Hyundai's made up the three quarters of the entire increase of stolen cars in the city. In Minneapolis, thefts of Kia's and Hyundai's increased by 836 percent. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin Kia's made up 58 percent of all stolen cars in 2022.
In a statement to ABC News, Kia says that it has contacted over two million owners and lessees to inform them of the software updates. More than 165,000 have installed the update, according to the company, which also says it has provided 39,000 free steering wheel locks to more than 275 law enforcement agencies.
"Kia remains very focused on this issue and we continue to take action to address the concerns these Attorneys General have raised. We are committed to working with them and law enforcement agencies across their respective states to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it," the statement said.
Hyundai Motor America told ABC News that "it is important to clarify that an engine immobilizer is an anti-theft device and these vehicles are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements."
"Thieves discovered a specific method by which to bypass the vehicles' security features and then documented and promoted their exploits on TikTok and other social media channels," Hyundai added.
Hyundai says the company has taken "comprehensive action," including making engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021 and fully rolling out a free anti-theft software upgrade two months ahead of schedule.
Attorneys general from Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, the state of Washington and Washington, D.C., all signed the letter.
In 2022, thefts of Hyundais and Kias increased nationwide. Los Angles saw an 85% increase in car thefts in 2022, with Kias and Hyundais making up almost three-quarters of the increase of stolen cars in the city, according to the letter. In Minneapolis, thefts of Kias and Hyundais increased by 836%, and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kias made up 58% of all stolen cars in 2022, the attorneys general said.