By Steve Schuster
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul joined Milwaukee leaders this afternoon in announcing a coalition of attorney generals who are sending a letter to Kia America (Kia) and Hyundai Motor Company (Hyundai) calling on their executives “to take swift and comprehensive action to help remedy the crisis of car thefts that has occurred as a result of the companies’ failure to equip vehicles with anti-theft immobilizers,” Kaul said in a written statement Monday.
Speaking at the Milwaukee Police Administration building Monday afternoon, Kaul said, “Kia and Hyundai need to step up to address the scourge of theft of vehicles they manufactured without anti-theft immobilizers.”
“These companies must act swiftly to reduce further harm from the high rates of theft of Kias and Hyundais,” Attorney General Kaul added.
In issuing today’s letter, Attorney General Kaul is joined by attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, along with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.
As previously reported by The Wisconsin Law Journal, “The Kia Boys” are mostly males under the age of 18 and have become notorious in Milwaukee for car theft and reckless “joyriding.” The Milwaukee Police Department reports there was a more than 132% increase in auto thefts in Milwaukee from 2020 to 2021. Back in May, a YouTube video featured a sixteen-minute documentary on the Kia Boys which quickly garnered the attention of local and national media.
Milwaukee is not alone with a spike in thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles. The thefts have become so common throughout the United States that major insurance carriers such as State Farm and Progressive and dropping some customers who drive those vehicles, reports USA Today.
James Bell, a spokesperson for Kia, told USA Today that the insurance companies’ move impacts certain Kias built between 2011 and 2021 that are equipped with a steel key to “insert and turn to start” the ignition.
Many 2015-19 Hyundai and Kia vehicles lack electronic immobilizers which would have prevented thieves from breaking in and bypassing the ignition. The feature is standard equipment on nearly all vehicles of that vintage made by other manufacturers, according to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.