SCHUMER: DANGEROUS & INFURIATING SURGE OF KIA, HYUNDAI CAR THEFTS IN UPSTATE NY IS OUT OF CONTROL – 350+ STOLEN IN BUFFALO THIS YEAR ALONE AND HUNDREDS MORE ACROSS UPSTATE NY – SENATOR CALLS ON FEDS TO GET INVOLVED AND DEMANDS KIA, HYUNDAI TO GIVE UPSTATE COMMUNITIES THE HELP THEY NEED NOW
Standing With Law Enforcement Struggling To Keep Up With Surge In Car Thefts & A Recent Victim Who Had Their Car Stolen, Senator Unveils Staggering Local Stats And Calls On Feds To Investigate & Get Answers
Schumer Says Kia, Hyundai Need To Get Out Support To Upstate Car Owners NOW – Make Safety Installation Kits FREE, Provide Free Steering Wheel Locks, Get Universal Software Fix Out ASAP! To Fix The Problem, And More
Senator Says Safety Defect Was “Predictable and Avoidable” and It Should Never Have Been This Easy To Hotwire These Cars – Putting Upstate Communities And Car Owners At Risk – Calls On Companies To Step Up Actions To Fix This Crisis
Schumer: Enough Is Enough, Feds Need To Figure Out How These Too-Easy-To-Steal Cars Got Greenlighted And Companies Must Put The Brakes On This Problem And Get Communities & Car Owners Support They Need
With Kia and Hyundai cars being stolen at record rates in Buffalo and across Upstate New York due to a safety defect, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer launched an all-out push to get the feds to start to get answers to this crisis and the car companies to step up and give Upstate communities the support they need now. Schumer explained how the widespread theft of Kias and Hyundais was sparked by a viral TikTok challenge, which showed how certain models of these cars can be easily hotwired and stolen with minimal effort due to a safety defect. Since then, hundreds of cars have been stolen, taken on joy rides, used in crimes, and tragically involved in the loss of life.
“Enough is enough. Over 350 of these too-easy-to-steal Kia and Hyundai cars have been stolen in just the past two months in Buffalo, and hundreds more across Upstate New York. We need the feds to get answers on how these cars, with a safety defect, got the green light, and for the companies to work with local law enforcement and get car owners the help they need to ensure they aren’t next victims of theft,” said Senator Schumer. “New York consumers should not have to worry about their cars being stolen from right under their noses with something as simple as a USB cord. These absurd car thefts are wreaking havoc on our Upstate communities, burdening law enforcement and creating public safety issues, and it is time for Kia and Hyundai to step up and put the brakes on this dangerous trend.”
Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “After the tragedy of four teenagers losing their lives, more needs to be done to stop Kia and Hyundai vehicles from being stolen. The Buffalo Police Department is doing everything they can to prevent these thefts before they occur, but it is not enough. I applaud Senator Schumer for using the full weight of the federal government to tackle the serious defect with these vehicles that has plagued our community and communities across the country.”
“Kia and Hyundai vehicles are stolen in the City of Buffalo every day and night due to the lack of anti-theft engine immobilizers that are used industry wide”, said City of Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia. “This is unacceptable and these manufacturers need to be held accountable. Thanks to Senator Schumer, Kia and Hyundai will have to answer for this problem that occurs in our community and all communities nationwide”
Schumer explained that Kias and Hyundais in particular are being stolen at disturbing rates across Upstate New York due to the ease from the safety defect. The senator said that many Kias and Hyundais manufactured between 2011-2021 don't have a component called an engine immobilizer to prevent them from being stolen unless you have a key or a fob. This means a criminal would only need to gain access to the vehicle or break a window, crack the steering column, and use something as simple as a USB connector to hot-wire the car.
According to the Buffalo Police Department, over 350 Kias and Hyundais have been stolen in Buffalo, compared to about 400 of these cars stolen over the entirety of last year. Schumer said that Buffalo is hardly alone in this trend though, with many other areas of Western NY struggling with the rush of this particular style of car theft. In Rochester, over 200 Kias were stolen in 25 days in January and more than 400 since just the start of this year.
Specifically, Schumer is demanding that Kia and Hyundai answer to their consumers and step up to provide the help they desperately need. Although Kia and Hyundai are rolling out software to fix the defect in their vehicles, it is not yet available for all models and years. Senator Schumer is calling on both companies to:
· Provide a universal software update for all affected models and years;
· Provide free security kits and installation services in the meantime; and
· Provide free steering wheel locks and ensure there are enough restocks at dealerships for all affected consumers.
The senator said that this is not only a problem of theft, it is a problem of safety. In Buffalo, four teenagers were left dead from a Kia Sportage rollover crash on the Kensington Expressway near the 198 last October; the Kia had been reported stolen that night. In Rochester, one Hyundai was used as a getaway vehicle by a gunman outside of a Rochester high school. Another driver crashed a stolen Kia into two parked cars before fleeing the scene. Additionally, it is now common practice for crews of people to go from door to door, stealing multiple cars in the course of one night and taking them on joyrides.
Schumer is also now calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to get involved and get answers on this crisis. He urged the NHTSA to step in and help get answers for Kia and Hyundai owners who are scared for their safety and many of who feel they have no tools to fix this issue. The senator said it is imperative to get a deeper understanding of how this crisis came to be and that the feds ensure cars are made as safe as possible to prevent not only the theft of the cars, but more importantly, prevent loss of life resulting from such widespread and ubiquitous thefts due to the clearly flawed design of the car.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to Kia and Hyundai appears below:
Dear Mr. Yoon and Mr. Muñoz:
It has come to my attention that there is a disturbing safety issue regarding the theft and operation of Kia and Hyundai cars, particularly those produced between 2011 – 2021, due to the fact that they do not have a vehicle immobilizer installed. This problem was predictable and avoidable.
This is not only a problem of theft, it is a problem of safety: thieves are “hotwiring” the cars and taking them for joyrides or using them in other crimes. Four teens in Buffalo died in an incident of taking a Kia without a vehicle immobilizer for a joyride. While I understand there is a software fix on some models and years, there needs to be a universal fix for all cars. I also request that you prioritize the hardest hit customers, such as those in the Buffalo and Rochester region first, and that in the meantime, any aftermarket security kits be installed free of charge at dealerships, and steering wheel locks be made available.
The number of stolen Kia and Hyundai models from 2011 – 2021 as compared to other vehicles is on the rise across the country and in New York and is a concerning trend. In Buffalo, 353 Kias and Hyundais were stolen in the first 48 days of 2023 alone and last year 275 Kias and 141 Hyundais were stolen in 2022. This is in contrast to 69 stolen Kias in 2021 and 55 stolen in 2020. In Rochester, New York, over 200 Kias were stolen in 25 days in January and more than 400 since just the start of this year. One Hyundai was used as a getway vehicle by a gunman outside of a Rochester high school and another driver crashed a stolen Kia into two parked cars before fleeing. While many are being used in association with other criminal activity, many others are also part of a viral TikTok challenge that encourages others to “hotwire” the cars and take them for a ride, given the ease of which this can be done without the presence of an immobilizer. Most heartbreakingly in Buffalo, on October 24, four teenagers between the ages of 14 – 19 were left dead from a Kia Sportage rollover crash on the Kensington Expressway.
We must do all we can to prevent these crimes and tragic deaths that are occurring. That is why I am calling on you to take action. News reports reveal that aftermarket security kits are available for Hyundais, but that the kits are $170 plus the installation fee, and are in short supply. The costly kits appear to be another way to extort paying customers—by first selling a faulty product and then charging exorbitant fees for the solution. Your company needs to make this right for consumers. Hyundai and Kai must provide free security kits, with installation, to consumers. What are you doing to ensure this can happen?
In addition, Hyundai and Kia have provided free steering wheel locks to select law enforcement across the country. However, in Rochester, the free steering wheel locks distributed by the police ran out within hours. Moreover, the police have no way of verifying who is a legitimate Kia or Hyundai owned and it should not be their responsibility to verify all claims. That can be better done at the dealership. I request that you provide free steering wheel locks to all consumers who need it. Are all dealerships handing out steering wheel locks? Have they run out and if so, what are you doing to provide restocks for vehicle owners?
For Hyundai and Kia, on the heels of your announcement of a software fix for some models:
· What does the “phased approach” roll out plan look like?
· Will you commit to implementing the software fix in greatly affected areas first, such as Buffalo and Rochester?
· How will you notify owners of affected vehicles? Will you send letters in the mail?
· Will the fix be made available free of charge, and the software upgrades free of charge at home or at the dealership?
· When will other car models receive the software fix?
· When will you have a fix for all vehicles?
Finally, what actions are you taking to work with or take the burden off of local law enforcement as a result of your faulty vehicles? I would like to see your companies working to reduce the number of thefts in New York and reduce the burden on law enforcement—and on affected car owners—by addressing the original issue of the safety defect brought on by the lack of an immobilizer.
It is clear that the trend of stolen Kias and Hyundais cannot continue. Not only is this a matter of stolen property, it is a matter of stolen lives—including the stolen lives of children taken from us all too soon. The affected car models are on the road and will be for years. Your companies must make all necessary fixes to affected models as quickly as possible to prevent future thefts—and future deaths.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff. I look forward to hearing a robust plan of action from you on how you plan to rectify this alarming safety problem.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to the NHTSA appears below:
I am concerned about a recent significant rise in the theft of certain models of Kia and Hyundai cars produced from 2011 – 2021, and am calling on your administration to immediately open a safety defect investigation into Kia and Hyundai for their cars that do not have an engine immobilizer.
This problem is found in all Kia and Hyundai, including those produced from 2011 – 2021, without an engine immobilizer. The number of thefts across the country—including in New York—are on the rise. In Buffalo, 353 Kias and Hyundais were stolen in the first 48 days of 2023 alone and last year 275 Kias and 141 Hyundais were stolen in 2022. This is in contrast to 69 stolen Kias in 2021 and 55 stolen in 2020. In Rochester, New York, over 200 Kias were stolen in a 25 day period in January and more than 400 since just the start of this year. Some are being used as part of other crimes as getaway vehicles and others are part of a viral TikTok “challenge” that encourages viewers to “hotwire” the car, which can be done easily on these models lacking an immobilizer, and taken for a joyride. On October 24, four teenagers between the ages of 14 – 19 died from a Kia Sportage rollover crash on Kensington Expressway in Buffalo; they had participated in the TikTok “challenge.” There is a clear safety issue at play that has left four young New Yorkers dead. I am writing to ask you to open a safety defect investigation and to understand what steps your agency is taking to address this situation. Specifically:
1. How long has NHTSA known about this issue and why did it not take action sooner?
2. How many consumer complaints have been filed with NHTSA regarding this specific theft issue?
3. What steps are you taking in response to those thefts?
4. What engagement have you had with the car companies Kia and Hyundai? What has been the response from the companies?
5. What can you tell me about the recent announcement that a software fix will be rolled out in phases? Who will receive the updates first? How long with the phases take?
6. Has Kia pledged to release a software update for their cars?
7. What other actions, if any, are being taken to rectify this situation?
It is imperative that these cars, which are on the road today, be made as safe as possible to prevent not only the theft of the cars, but more importantly, prevent loss of life resulting from such widespread and ubiquitous thefts due to the clearly flawed safety defect and design of the cars. This is not only a matter of stolen cars—it has now become a matter of stolen life and we must do all we can to prevent any more.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter and I look forward to hearing from you as quickly as possible. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
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