City leaders demand action as surge in Kia, Hyundai vehicle thefts continue

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 9:21 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS CITY, Mo. (KMOV) - Citing failures to install engine immobilizers in their cars, St. Louis City officials are calling for action to combat the surge of stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

In a letter sent to top officials at Kia America and Hyundai Motor North America, local leaders are demanding the companies make changes that deter car thieves in 30 days or potentially face a lawsuit. The city also threatened to “seek all legal remedies available to the City.”

“I’d like to see them install the immobilizers in all Kias and Hyundais for free and not charge their customers to do so,” St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said.

According to the letter, “Kia and Hyundai’s failure to install engine immobilizers enables thieves - often juveniles - to steal those vehicles in a matter of seconds, and, because of this failure, the City is on pace to surpass the total number of vehicle thefts for the entire 2021 calendar year by the end of August 2022,” the St. Louis City Counselor Sheena Hamilton wrote in a letter. “Worse still, stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles are being used in the commission of violent crime throughout the City.”

On June 26, officials said a stolen Hyundai Elantra and Kia Optima were involved in a shootout that left six other cars riddled with bullets and damaged. In August, a 17-year-old was struck by a bullet inside an apartment during a shootout between a stolen Hyundai and a stolen Kia, which happened in a busy intersection south of downtown St. Louis.

“It’s very labor intensive on law enforcement because not only are they investigating the thefts, sometimes the people who steal those vehicles commit other crimes,” Jones said.

St. Louis Police tell News 4 that so far this year around 1,900 Kia and Hyundai cars were involved in thefts or attempted thefts.

According to the city’s letter, approximately 77% of stolen vehicles were a Kia or Hyundai. In July, police said the city averaged 21 car thefts a day.

On Monday Mayor Jones criticized Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

“The state’s Attorney General is so busy trying to get another job I don’t think that he has time to get involved in our little issues in our city,” Jones said.

Schmitt is currently running for Senate.

News 4 reached out to Schmitt’s office, a spokesman said they were unaware of anyone from the city reaching out about Kia and Hyundai thefts.

When asked if the thefts are now on their radar and if they plan to get involved, a spokesman said they are unaware of any Hyundai or Kia owners filing complaints with the AG’s consumer division but they will look into the matter.