New York City has filed a lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia, joining a host of other cities beset by a spate of car thefts fueled by social media due to a glitch that made some car models highly susceptible to theft.
Viral instructional videos on TikTok and other sites show how to power up cars using just USB cables and a screwdriver. The reason is that some models sold by Hyundai and Kia in the US came without engine immobilizers, a standard feature on most cars since the 1990s that prevents the engine from starting unless the key is present. .
The lawsuit, which was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Tuesday night, alleges that Hyundai Motor America and Kia America Inc. were unable to keep up with other automakers by not adopting the immobilization technology that ensured cars couldn't start. without your keys.
"Hyundai's and Kia's business decisions to reduce costs, and therefore increase profits, by forgoing common anti-theft technology, have resulted in an epidemic of theft," the lawsuit states.
The city claims that car thefts are straining the resources of its police department, as well as having a negative impact on public safety and emergency services.
The New York City Police Department reports that about 287 Kias were stolen last year, up from about 119 in 2021. About 415 Hyundais were reported stolen in 2022, up from 232 the year before. And the problem has continued, with an estimated 977 Hyundai and Kia vehicles reported stolen in the first four months of this year. There were only 148 such thefts in the same months last year.
New York, the nation's largest city by population, joins a growing list of cities going after automakers after a spate of thefts, including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego and Seattle.
The City of New York, seeking a jury trial, requests an order providing for the reduction of the public nuisance Hyundai and Kia have created or contributed to, compensation for economic losses suffered as a result of the nuisance, and injunctive relief .
Hyundai says it is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of its products.
“A subset of Hyundai vehicles on the road in the US today, primarily entry-level or entry-level models, are not equipped with ignition buttons or immobilization anti-theft devices. It is important to clarify that an engine immobilizer is an anti-theft device and these vehicles are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements," the automaker said in a written statement.
Hyundai made engine immobilizers standard on all of its vehicles manufactured from November 2021 onwards. The company also said that it is speaking with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the actions it is taking to help its customers.
“The lawsuits filed by the municipalities against Kia are baseless. Like all Kia vehicles, these specific models are subject to and fully comply with the requirements outlined in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 114 which governs theft protection measures,” Kia said in a prepared statement.
The company said it has been working with law enforcement agencies in New York City to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it.
“We remain committed to supporting our customers and vehicle safety,” Kia said.
Last month, Hyundai and Kia reached an agreement to settle a class action lawsuit sparked by a spike in vehicle thefts.
The deal could be valued at $200 million and covers about 9 million 2011-2022 Hyundai and Kia vehicles in the US, the companies said at the time.
The settlement will provide cash compensation to customers who suffered theft-related loss or damage not covered by insurance, as well as reimbursement of insurance deductibles, increased insurance premiums and other losses, Kia said. and Hyundai.
A software upgrade will also be provided to eligible owners. For customers with vehicles that cannot accommodate the software upgrade, the agreement will provide reimbursement of up to $300 for anti-theft devices.
Kia and Hyundai have also provided affected customers with tens of thousands of free steering wheel locks through local police and drop shipments, the companies said.
The proposed settlement is expected to be reviewed in court for preliminary approval in July.