AG Ellison launches investigation of Kia, Hyundai over vehicle thefts

(ABC 6 News) – Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Tuesday that his office has launched a civil investigation into Kia and Hyundai’s sale of vehicles to Minnesota consumers that lacked industry-standard, anti-theft technology. 

AG Ellison said his office served civil investigative demands on Kia and Hyundai, which require them to produce documents and answer questions under oath with the purpose of to gather information to determine whether Kia and Hyundai—through their actions or inactions—have violated Minnesota’s consumer protection and public nuisance laws.

“The drastic increase in Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts is continuing to threaten public safety and do serious harm to our communities,” Attorney General Ellison said.  “With this investigation, we will follow where the facts lead us and will continue to use all the tools of the law to help keep Minnesotans safe.”

AG Ellison said until recently, Kia and Hyundai did not include anti-theft “engine-immobilizer” technology in many of their vehicles sold throughout the United States, including in Minnesota. An engine immobilizer prevents a vehicle’s engine from starting without using the vehicle’s authorized “smart” key that stores an electronic security code. By failing to equip their vehicles with this anti-theft technology, AG Ellison said Kia and Hyundai lagged behind industry standards. 

According to AG Ellison, criminals and car thieves have learned about the lack of anti-theft technology in many of Kia and Hyundai’s vehicles, as well as the quick and simple way the vehicles’ ignition cylinder can be exploited, and the ignition switch started. This has led to a drastic increase of Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts throughout the nation, including in Minnesota.  For example, reported thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in 2022 increased by 836% in Minneapolis, and 611% in St. Paul from 2021 rates. Some vehicles have even been stolen multiple times in the same year.

In addition, these stolen vehicles have been used in the furtherance of violent crimes in Minnesota. For example, in Minneapolis alone, in 2022 Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts were tied to:

  • 5 homicides
  • 13 shootings
  • 36 robberies
  • 265 motor vehicle accidents

Tuesday’s announcement follows a letter last week from AG Ellison and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter pressing Kia and Hyundai for an immediate safety recall to stem the rise of thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles saying these thefts are posing an increasing harm to public safety.