States, except Missouri push for Kia and Hyundai recalls, while Metro residents continue to fear theft

Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 9:53 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - It was on April 10th, when mother Ashley Femmer became among the latest victims of what feels like a never ending problem in the St. Louis Metro.

“I wish people would stop stealing cars, especially when you see a car seat in the back of that car and you know that you’re taking from a mom who just needs to get to work and take care of her kids,” said Femmer. “Even when I get the car back, I just feel like it’s going to get stolen again. Like it sucks.”

St. Louis Metropolitan Police tells News 4 there have been a total of 1,934 incident reports listed as motor vehicle thefts since the start of the year. Of those reports, 517 reports listed a vehicle make of Hyundai and 443 reports listed a vehicle make of KIA.

“We’re down on overall crime…about 9 percent,” said St. Louis Metropolitan Police’s newest Chief, Robert Tracy. “The only thing that’s really hurting us and the only crime that we’re up is auto thefts, and we also know exactly what’s going on with the Kia and the Hyundais and the anti-theft devices that are going on that have to be fixed.”

Last month St. Louis City sued Kia and Hyundai for failing to install anti-theft technology in millions of their vehicles.

Illinois’ Attorney General and 17 others top are now going further calling for a widespread recall of Kia and Hyundai vehicles that do not have engine immobilizers: technology that can keep thieves from starting an engine without a key.

The leaders of these states issued a letter on Thursday to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration to step in a make the widespread recall of millions of Kias and Hyundais because they say the two car manufacturers haven’t fully addressed the vulnerabilities with their older models that continue to be stolen, and it continues to pose an unreasonable risk to public safety.

However, not seen in this letter is any signature or backing from the Missouri Attorney General, despite a lot of concerns with stolen vehicles in the state’s major cities.

News 4 has reached out to Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office for comment but have not heard back.

“I specifically chose the Kia because with the inflation of everything right now, it’s making it so impossible to afford just living in general,” said South City resident Margaret Moore.

Moore says she will never buy from Kia again, after hers was stolen Saturday night, less than a month since getting it.

“At this point, in the end there’s really no coming back from it. I don’t think people will ever want to buy a Kia again,” she said.

Both Kia and Hyundai shared statements with News 4 expressing their commitment on working to address concerns raised by the attorneys general.

Kia says they have “contacted over two million owners and lessees of Kia vehicles to let them know of the availability of the software upgrade, and more than 165,000 eligible customers have already had the upgrade installed.”

The company also adds that they have supplied more than 39,000 free steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies across the country and shipped 8,000 more directly to owners.

Hyundai shared this statement with News 4:

Hyundai has taken comprehensive action to assist our customers, including: (1) made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021; (2) fully rolled out a free software upgrade to prevent the method of theft involved, two months ahead of schedule; (3) introduced a program in partnership with AAA insurers to offer insurance options in most states for eligible affected Hyundai customers; (4) initiated a program to reimburse affected customers for their purchase of steering wheel locks; (5) launched to provide owners with information on all of the support options available and created a dedicated customer service support team and call center, 888-498-0390, to assist impacted owners.

However, some customers say they are still being left to wait for these upgrades to security.

“My understanding from the dealership in which I purchased it was, this coming summer, once Kia sent all that out to the dealerships to get fixed, they’re basically going to change the mechanism when which your key goes into,” said Moore. “So they told me, ‘Be safe with it till summer. Use your club hook. You’ll be fine’. I bought this car [in] April, and now it’s a month later and its gone. It didn’t even make it halfway to summer.”

Current owners say one way they want to prevent auto thefts in the future is by mandating that dealerships warn customers about what they are buying and how vulnerable it is to theft.

“I just thought that we could trust our manufacturers at this point and time in this day and age to not have our calls stolen,” said Femmer.