MN officials launch investigation into Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts

Today, MN Attorney General Keith Ellison launched an investigation into Kia and Hyundai’s lack of anti-theft technology.
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 6:50 AM CST
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (KEYC) - Last year, reported thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles increased by 836% in Minneapolis, and 611% in St. Paul from 2021.

As a result, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has launched an investigation into Kia and Hyundai’s lack of anti-theft technology.

“We’re announcing that the Attorney General’s office is launching a civil investigation to determine whether Kia and Hyundai have violated Minnesota’s consumer protection laws and public nuisance laws by their actions and inactions,” said Ellison.

Because some of its models don’t have anti-theft technology, Kias and Hyundais have become a popular target for car thieves.

Thefts are so high, Progressive and State Farm insurance companies will no longer offer coverage for owners of these vehicles.

“The Kia models were stolen with a USB drive,” explained Michael Visker, co-owner of Express Auto Service and Repair. “But those were all vehicles that were not equipped with this type of immobilizer.”

An engine immobilizer prevents a vehicle’s engine from starting without using the vehicle’s key, which stores an electronic security code.

“Once those control modules see that the vehicles are attempting to start and they have the information from the key,” said Visker. “Then they can okay it with one another. They talk to one another and say ‘hey, we’ve got the information we need, go ahead and start the car.’

Auto mechanics say it’s very rare for a car to not have one.

“[Due to] advancement in technologies, in the use of control modules and computers and vehicles, the mobilizer system has gotten very intricate,” said Visker. “It’s not, you know, you’re not sparking wires together and in, jump starting cars, anymore. No, it’s not very common to see cars without an immobilizer.”

Now, a bill working its way through the state legislature would require all vehicle manufacturers offer and to install anti-theft protection devices for free to any owner of a model made without an immobilizer after January 1, 2013 -- serving as a roadblock for car thieves.

The announcement follows a letter AG Ellison and St Paul and Minneapolis’ mayors sent to Hyundai and Kia last week for an immediate safety recall to stem the rise of thefts of their vehicles.

Another bill on the table looks to fight catalytic converter theft through tracking with labels.