BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The upswing in Kia and Hyundai thefts is creating a major headache for Buffalonians and law enforcement. During a visit to Buffalo Monday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) demanded the automaker pump the brakes and take action.

Frustration is boiling over for many Kia and Hyundai owners in Buffalo. Casey Sigrist had her Kia Sportage stolen from her North Buffalo home back in December.

Sigrist said she’s even been dropped from her insurance company because of the theft.

“Nobody is taking responsibility and the only people that getting hurt are the people that own Kias,” said Sigrist. “My main problem was with Kia because this was a manufacturing problem. And it’s a safety issue and I don’t understand why they don’t take responsibility.”

She said the ordeal is costing her thousands of dollars and had to take out a personal loan.

In a statement to News 4, Kia America said it’s committed to working with law enforcement on this issue. They add “there is no defect in the security features in any of these vehicles,” adding that all Kia vehicles comply with federal safety standards.

Buffalo police say more than 400 Kia and Hyundai models have been stolen this year alone.

And Senator Schumer is not happy.

“Bottom line, Kia, Hyundai can’t keep letting criminals on TikTok ride off into the sunset with innocent Buffalonians resident’s cars,” Senator Schumer said. “It’s time for the companies to step up and make this right.”

Schumer is calling on Kia and Hyundai to roll out a software fix to affected vehicles, provide installation of a free security kit and steering wheel locks.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia says a dozen of the vehicles are sometimes stolen in a single night.

“I spoke with Kia USA back in November and their response is that this is a local crime problem,” added Commissioner Gramaglia. “This is a national crime problem based on defective and ineffective equipment in their cars.”

Senator Schumer sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urging them to open an investigation into the automaker.

We are committed to working with him and law enforcement
agencies at the federal, state, and local level to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it.

In response to Senator Schumer’s questions about what Kia is doing to address these crimes, we are rolling out a free enhanced security software upgrade to restrict the unauthorized operation of vehicle ignition systems and we are also providing steering wheel locks for impacted owners at no cost through local law enforcement agencies. To date, Kia has already contacted over 1 million owners and lessees of Kia vehicles to let them know of the availability of the software upgrade and to advise them to schedule a free installation at any Kia dealer.

To be clear, there is no defect in the security features in any of these vehicles. All Kia vehicles comply fully with applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Kia owners should contact our Customer Care team directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia) or online via the Owners Portal on kia.com for more information on their eligibility for the upgrade or to learn more about obtaining a steering wheel lock.

KIA America

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Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.