Thefts of easy-to-steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles continued to skyrocket in Minneapolis in 2023, prompting exasperated city leaders to join a chorus of governments asking federal authorities to issue a national recall.

While thefts of those two brands fell somewhat in St. Paul, they're still way above levels seen 2022 when the vehicles' vulnerabilities were shared widely on social media via the infamous "Kia challenge," and a nationwide wave of the thefts began.

Here are the numbers, according to the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments:

  • Minneapolis: In 2023, 4,520 auto thefts involving a Kia or Hyundai were reported, up from 2,340 in 2022 — which was a 836% increase from the year before.
  • St. Paul: 694 such thefts were reported in 2023, down from 953 in 2022 — which saw a 611% increase from the year prior.

In addition to overwhelming law enforcement, the thefts have upended the lives of vehicle owners — often repeatedly — as the same cars get broken into and stolen again and again. Over the course of the past two years, 509 vehicles in Minneapolis were stolen more than once.

In one extreme example, a 2017 Kia Sportage was stolen eight times across the metro, including five times in Minneapolis.

And there's the violence. In 2022, Minneapolis tied stolen Kias and Hyundais to five homicides, 13 shootings, 36 robberies and 265 crashes. Such figures weren't immediately available for 2023 thefts.

Not reflected in any of those numbers: Kia and Hyundai owners whose vehicles aren't vulnerable to theft, but whose cars have been broken into and their steering columns ripped open, rendering them undriveable, by would-be thieves targeting the wrong models.

"It's kind of shocking," Minneapolis City Council President Elliott Payne said Wednesday. Payne is the lead sponsor of a resolution signed by all 13 City Council members that was approved Thursday. The resolution calls on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to initiate a national recall of Kia and Hyundai vehicles not equipped with the technology to help prevent theft.

Mayor Jacob Frey is expected to sign it.

This isn't the first time local leaders have demanded help to address the problem here and across the nation.

Last year, Frey, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison called on the two automakers to voluntarily recall the roughly 4 million vehicles that are vulnerable because they weren't made with immobilizers that would render them undriveable without a key.

Ellison launched an investigation into the auto companies to determine if they violated Minnesota's consumer protection and public nuisance laws.

He was among 18 state attorneys general who asked the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to issue a national recall last year. NHTSA has declined to do so, saying that the problem didn't rise to the level of a safety defect.

The automakers have offered software updates for some vehicles and supplied local police departments with steering wheel locks, and Minneapolis and St. Paul police have held free events for vehicle owners. But the thefts continue.

"This is so unique to Kia and Hyundai," Payne said. "It's such a failure of engineering design, and they haven't addressed it."

Staff writer Rachel Hutton contributed to this report.