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Major automakers sued over ‘huge flaw’ in cars as theft and hijacking spike after pandemic

Two major international automakers have been sued in federal court over their lax anti-theft technology.

The lawsuit, filed by the city of Seattle, alleges that Hyundai and Kia failed to install anti-theft devices in their cars, making them more vulnerable and more lucrative to steal.


Kia and Hyundai’s anti-theft tech comes under fire1 credit
Both Hyundai and Kia have been sued by the City of Seattle


Both Hyundai and Kia have been sued by the City of SeattleCredit: Getty

The move was prompted after the city saw a dramatic increase in car thefts and robberies following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The failure of [Hyundai and Kia] installing common sense anti-theft technology,” the lawsuit states, “has caused a substantial increase in Hyundai and Kia vehicle theft and related crimes, reckless driving and public harm.”

Putting that spike into numbers, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davidson told local Fox affiliate KCPQ, “From last July to this July, we’ve seen a 625% increase in the number of stolen Kias and Hyundais in the city of Seattle.”

According to the lawsuit, “By choosing profits over safety, or at best by choosing to cut costs and costs, thereby shifting them to the city and the public [Hyundai and Kia] created and maintained a public nuisance,” language echoed by Davidson in his statement.

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Davidson also noted that anti-theft engine immobilizers are “universal across nearly every automaker”.

The lawsuit alleged that the two Korean automakers endangered Seattle’s public safety by not standardizing engine immobilizers.

“In many cases, thieves use tools no more advanced than a USB cable,” the lawsuit notes, adding that the two companies installed immobilizers in models sold in European and Canadian markets “because the regulations expressly require them”.

The city also argues that companies should be forced to recall older models that lacked the technology.

Hyundai and Kia cars are both in the top 10 stolen automakers in the city.

The number of stolen cars in 2022 has reached its highest level in 15 years, and the lawsuit specifically singles out Hyundai and Kia for not “keeping up with the times” when it comes to anti-theft technology.

“In 2015, only 26% of Hyundai and Kia vehicles in the United States were equipped with an immobilizer, compared to 96% for vehicles from all other manufacturers,” the report said.

Across the country, car thefts are on the rise. According to the Council for Criminal Justice, “$7.4 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft in the United States” in 2020 alone.

And between 2019 and 2022, car thefts in 30 major US cities increased by 59%.

But Kias and Hyundais have been particularly hard hit, fueled, according to the Seattle trial notes, by viral TikTok videos that show exactly how to steal them with “relative ease”.

The US Sun has previously reported on the damage caused by this trend, including a woman who shared heartbreaking photos of the aftermath of an attempted theft of her Kia in Indiana.

The US Sun also revealed motorway camera footage showing the moment a group of four teenagers crashed and ran away from a stolen Kia – believed to have been fueled by the so-called Kia Challenge.

Hyundai and Kia have argued that other technologies have been effective in stopping the hijackings and thefts, and say the lawsuit is unjustified.

Hyundai said in a statement: “Hyundai believes this lawsuit is improper and unnecessary.”

The company continued, “In response to the increase in theft targeting our vehicles without push-button ignition and immobilizer anti-theft devices in the United States, Hyundai Motor America has made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced from of November 2021.”

Hyundai also claimed to have provided free steering wheel locks.

Kia said: “Kia remains concerned that criminal actors are targeting certain Kia cars with steel key and ‘turn to start’ ignition systems.”

They continued: “While no car can be completely anti-theft, Kia continues to make steering wheel locks available to customers through interested local law enforcement agencies, subject to supply. available, at no cost to affected owners of such vehicles.”

Kia claimed that all cars built after the 2022 model year have in-vehicle immobilizers or have the technology as a running charge.

The company also claims that older models can be taken back to dealerships to install the immobilizer.

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Seattle officials remain skeptical.

“The big push is to get this recall, so all of these vehicles can be fixed and put anti-theft technology in these vehicles for consumers,” Davison said.


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