Bye-bye Kia Boys? Illinois attorney general wants feds to recall easily-stolen Kias, Hyundais

Milwaukee-area “Kia boys” go for a ride in a YouTube video that went viral in June 2022. | TommyGMcGee

CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is calling on Hyundai and Kia to recall vehicles that have a security flaw that allows thieves to steal the cars with little more than a USB plug.

He is joining 17 other states to push federal authorities to order a recall “following the companies’ continued failure to take adequate steps to address the alarming rate of vehicle thefts.”

Auto theft rates have skyrocketed in Chicago and elsewhere since online videos began showing so-called “Kia Boys” how to steal the manufacturers’ cars last summer.

Raoul’s office said the group wants the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to “recall unsafe Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 that have easily-bypassed ignition switches and lack engine immobilizers that make the vehicles vulnerable to theft.”

Both manufacturers announced software patches earlier this year that they said would prevent vehicles from being stolen with the USB hack. But Raoul’s office says that’s not enough.

“The upgrade will not be available for many affected vehicles until June, or not installed at all for some 2011 to 2022 models,” the office said in a written statement. “Vehicle owners who cannot receive the software upgrade can reportedly receive a free steering wheel lock from Kia and Hyundai, but the lock does not address the underlying ignition system flaw that makes the vehicles so vulnerable to theft.”

In Chicago, CPD’s April 16 statistical report shows auto thefts are up 137% compared to last year and up 251% from 2019 levels. The report shows over 8,708 cars stolen in Chicago as of April 16. That’s more than were stolen year-to-date in 2019, 2020, and 2021 combined. Last July, shortly after the craze began, thefts of Kias and Hyundais soared 767% in Cook County, the sheriff’s office said.

Raoul’s office said 10% of all Kias and 7% of all Hyundais registered in Chicago were stolen last year.

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