New York City has sued Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Corp, alleging negligence and public nuisance by the South Korean automakers due to their vehicles being too easy to steal. This lawsuit follows similar ones by other US cities, including Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego, and Seattle.
Claims Against Hyundai and Kia
In the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, NYC claims that the automakers did not install anti-theft devices called immobilizers on most of their cars from 2011 to 2022, making them “nearly unique” in this regard. The city accuses the lack of these devices of causing a surge in vehicle theft, reckless driving, and public harm, which has been compounded by TikTok videos showing how to steal cars that lack push-button ignitions and immobilizers.
Rising Theft Rates
The lawsuit states that the number of reported stolen Hyundais and Kias doubled in 2022, and in the first four months of 2023, there has been a “virtual explosion of thefts” with 977 reported cases, up from 148 during the same period in 2022. In comparison, thefts of BMW, Ford, Honda, Mercedes, Nissan, and Toyota vehicles have decreased this year. The city is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in response to this situation.
In response to the lawsuit, Hyundai said it made immobilizers standard on all vehicles in November 2021 and has taken steps, including a software upgrade, to decrease the risk of thefts. Kia also cited its anti-theft measures, stating it’s working with NYC law enforcement to combat car thefts and claimed the city’s lawsuit to be “without merit.” Both companies have offered software upgrades for up to 8.3 million US vehicles lacking immobilizers.
In April, Hyundai and Kia settled a consumer class action over the thefts for $200 million. This case involved about 9 million US vehicle owners, with up to $145 million allocated to cover losses for stolen vehicles.
Summary: New York City has filed a lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia, accusing the automakers of negligence and creating a public nuisance by selling vehicles prone to theft due to the lack of anti-theft devices. The lawsuit comes amidst a significant rise in reported thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles and follows similar lawsuits by several other US cities. Both automakers have responded, stating their commitment to reducing vehicle thefts and deeming the lawsuit “without merit.”