Thieves are stealing Kias, Hyundais even after anti-Kia Boy software upgrade, officials say

CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is urging a federal court to beef up a class-action lawsuit settlement with Hyundai and Kia, whose older models have a security flaw that allows them to be operated by using a USB plug as the ignition key.

Raoul and attorneys general from seven other states want the companies to either buy back the easily stolen models or recall the vehicles and equip them with “engine-immobilizer technology.”

Both companies announced software upgrades earlier this year that they say prevent thieves, known popularly as “Kia Boys,” from driving away with the cars.

“The attorneys general do not think the software upgrade is effective because in the six months it has been available, there are reports of Hyundai and Kia thefts in upgraded vehicles,” Raoul’s office said in a press release Tuesday.

Raoul said the group’s letter to a federal court in California argues that the proposed settlement is “insufficient and will not resolve the ongoing Hyundai and Kia thefts that continue to jeopardize public safety in Illinois and across the country.”

Illinois is not participating in the class action, but Raoul said he signed the letter because over 7,000 Hyundai and Kia cars were stolen in Chicago last year—about 10% of all Kias and 7% of all Hyundais registered in the city.

Under the proposed settlement, the car companies would require a key in the ignition for their vehicles to start. According to the press release, they would also extend the amount of time their cars’ theft alarms sound from 30 seconds to a minute.

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

Owners of cars that cannot be upgraded will receive up to $300 to equip their vehicles with wheel locks or an anti-theft system.

Also signing the letter are attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Raoul was among officials from 18 states who urged the federal government to recall affected Kias and Hyundais earlier this year.

Stolen Kias and Hyundais are regularly used by armed robbery crews who pull off several holdups and then dump the cars, only to steal another to commit more crimes.

The Chicago Police Department’s latest statistical report shows auto thefts are up 107% compared to last year and 228% from 2019. The report shows over 18,431 cars stolen in Chicago as of Sunday. 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.

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