The widespread thefts of certain Hyundai and Kia models have been a major topic in the last few months, with owners looking for a solution and not finding one. City attorneys and law enforcement officials from the city of Columbus, Ohio, say they've had enough and are suing the Korean automaker for its lack of security in its cars.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said Tuesday he would sue Hyundai and Kia for damages related to the thefts, which have soared 450% for those cars and a total of 17 per day in the last year. Specifically, the lawsuit intends to hold the automakers accountable for not including “industry standard anti-theft technology” in its vehicles, which is the direct cause of the recent explosion of thefts plaguing the Korean automaker.
“For years, Kia and Hyundai cut corners and sold vehicles they knew were so unsafe they could be stolen with ease by a teenager with access to simple tools and a TikTok account,” Klein said in a statement. “Kia and Hyundai’s negligence in pursuit of corporate profit is unconscionable. It’s time we held these automakers accountable for cheating consumers and passing the buck and responsibility to clean up the mess they made onto the rest of us.”
A Kia spokesman declined to comment and a Hyundai spokesmen said: "We remain concerned about the increase in thefts of certain Hyundai vehicles that have been targeted in a coordinated social media campaign. Currently, Hyundai provides steering wheel locks, as available, to law enforcement agencies in impacted areas. In addition, Hyundai will provide two other options for owners of these earlier model year vehicles targeted by thieves." Those include a software update that the company said will be available early next year, and a glass break sensor kit that sells for $170 not including labor costs.
The vulnerability of the cars is exposed in a popular TikTok hack that involves a simple screwdriver and a USB cord, which is all someone needs to start the car once they’re inside. Certain Kia and Hyundai cars that use a physical key instead of a push-button start aren’t equipped with an immobilizer, which allows thieves to start the car without a key.
The city of Columbus contends that Hyundai and Kia “have intentionally and consciously manufactured, marketed, and sold vehicles that lacked sufficient, industry-standard security features, including engine immobilizers and certain other safety and anti-theft systems.” The city also notes that the automakers have refused to recall the affected cars and have only offered solutions at a cost, placing the burden on the customer instead of the automaker.
"We’ve asked Kia and Hyundai for their assistance. To date, we have received no meaningful cooperation. These automakers should be just as concerned as we are that their products are so easily accessible and are being used to commit felonious acts," Columbus Chief of Police Elaine Bryant said in a statement.
Columbus is seeking an injunction to stop the sale of the “unsafe” vehicles, recall the affected cars, and unspecified financial damanges. This is one of the first major moves by a local government to hold Hyundai and Kia accountable, and with more cities across the U.S. reporting rising theft rates, it’s likely Columbus won’t be the last.
Update 11/10: This story has been updated to include comment from Hyundai.
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