Chicago sues Hyundai, Kia amid spike in auto thefts

An estimated 8 million Kias and Hyundais lack a key device that prevents thefts. Chicago leaders say the manufacturers should bear the cost of thefts.
Chicago sues Hyundai, Kia amid spike in auto thefts
Posted at 12:00 PM, Aug 25, 2023

The city of Chicago became the latest jurisdiction to sue Kia and Hyundai over their vehicles being particularly prone to stealing after a 2021 social media challenge exacerbated the thefts. Videos on TikTok showed how to steal the cars in less than 30 seconds. 

The city of Chicago alleged that the two companies violated the city’s consumer protection laws, were negligent, and created a public nuisance. The city says it wants to reclaim costs incurred responding to the thefts and provide restitution to residents affected by the thefts. 

“The impact of car theft on Chicago residents can be deeply destabilizing, particularly for low- to middle-income workers who have fewer options for getting to work and taking care of their families,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson. “The failure of Kia and Hyundai to install basic auto-theft prevention technology in these models is sheer negligence, and as a result, a citywide and nationwide crime spree around automobile theft has been unfolding right before our eyes.”

The city said that since the videos exposed flaws in the vehicles, thefts surged. The number of Kia and Hyundai vehicles stolen in Chicago increased from about 500 in the first half of 2022 to 8,350 in the second half of the year. The city says that more than half of all vehicles stolen in Chicago are Kia and Hyundai models.

SEE MORE: 5 million Kias and Hyundais still need this urgent fix

“Chicago is bearing the cost of Defendants’ unlawful conduct, as it pays for property damage, diverts law enforcement resources, and strives to keep the public safe from harm Defendants could have prevented,” said Corporation Counsel Mary Richardson-Lowry.

Nearly 8 million vehicles lack an immobilizer, a security device that prevents the car from being started without the correct key present (preventing theft by hotwiring). 

The thefts have also prompted calls for a class-action lawsuit against the companies. 

The National Insurance Crime Bureau found that car thefts rose 17% from 2019 to 2021. The group has encouraged social media platforms to remove videos showing how to steal such cars. 

“Enabling criminals to share the tools and techniques of their trade through posting videos online adversely impacts all consumers,” Celeste Dodson, president of the International Association of Special Investigation Units, said in a press release. “When a vehicle is stolen, it is often not the end of the crime but the beginning. "

Earlier this year, 17 state attorneys general sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urging the agency to recall Kia and Hyundai vehicles prone to theft.  

SEE MORE: New report lists the most and least recalled vehicles

The attorneys general said that these thefts have led to an increase in dangerous driving incidents. 

“Thieves have driven these vehicles recklessly, speeding and performing wild stunts and causing numerous crashes, at least eight deaths, and significant injuries. Many of the victims have been minors,” the AGs wrote. 

A recent settlement requires Kia and Hyundai to install anti-theft software updates. For owners whose vehicles cannot accommodate a software update, the companies will provide up to $300 for the purchase of various anti-theft devices. 

The May 2023 settlement, however, has not been finalized by a court. 

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