Kias and Hyundais have been stolen at increasing rates due to the "Kia Boyz" viral phenomenon.
St. Louis City officials are threatening to sue two car manufacturers alleging their shoddily assembled vehicles led to an "epidemic of car thefts."
In a letter to Hyundai and Kia, City Counselor Sheena Hamilton chastized the car manufacturers for failing to install engine immobilizers in many of their vehicles, making the vehicles a popular target for thieves.
Hamilton threatened to seek "all legal remedies available to the city" if Kia and Hyundai didn't mitigate their vehicles' "defective conditions."
"Kia and Hyundai's failure to install engine immobilizers enables thieves — often juveniles — to steal those vehicles in a matter of seconds, and because of this failure, the city is on pace to surpass the total number of vehicle thefts for the entire 2021 calendar year by the end of August 2022."
Cities nationwide have threatened similar action against Kia and Hyundai as vehicle thefts spike. Most thefts are attributed to "Kia Boyz," a viral TikTok trend where kids show each other how to steal newer Kia and Hyundai models using only a USB cord.
In July, St. Louis averaged 21 Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts per day, a rate that is only increasing as the days and weeks go by, according to Hamilton.
Saint Louis Metropolitan Police received reports of 356 thefts or attempted thefts of Kia or Hyundai vehicles from Aug. 1 to Aug. 31. This comprised 77 percent of the total number of vehicles stolen during that time.
"The investigation and documentation of these vehicle thefts and recovery efforts are taxing city resources and forcing SLMPD to devote significant resources to documenting, investigating and recovering these stolen cars," Hamilton wrote.
The wave of thefts have caused a "public safety crisis" in the city, Hamilton asserted. She said the stolen vehicles are often being used for violent crime. She cited an incident earlier this month when a stolen Kia Optima and a stolen Hyundai Sonata were involved in a mid-day shootout near a busy intersection south of downtown. A 17-year-old was shot and a bullet entered an occupied apartment.
In another instance, the drivers of a stolen Hyundai Elantra and a stolen Kia Optima were involved in a shooting in which six other vehicles were shot and damaged on June 26.
"Kia and Hyundais defective vehicles have caused a public safety crisis in our city, endangering the health, safety, and peace of all those who live, work or visit the city," Hamilton wrote. "Your companies bear the responsibility to mitigate the public nuisance your negligence has created for the city and its residents."