A lawsuit filed by local authorities in federal court in Manhattan accuses the two South Korean giants of “opening the floodgates to vehicle theft, crime, reckless driving and public harm” by failing to install anti-theft devices on their vehicles.
It’s been a month since South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia settled for about $200 million to settle a class action lawsuit in the United States sparked by a surge in car thefts.
The settlement, which the companies said covered about nine million 2011-2022 Hyundai and Kia vehicles, included cash compensation to customers who suffered theft-related loss or damage not covered by insurance, as well as reimbursement of insurance deductibles, among others.
But despite the effort, thieves continue to take the vehicles at an alarming rate.
New York City on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, filed a lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia, beset by a spate of car thefts due to a flaw that made some car models highly susceptible to theft.
New York City sued Hyundai and Kia, accusing the South Korean automakers of negligence and creating a public nuisance by selling vehicles that are too easy to steal https://t.co/yY0MxSPCMO
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 7, 2023
In the legal action, New York blamed automakers for failing to install anti-theft devices called immobilizers in most of their cars between 2011 and 2022, making them “virtually unique” in the industry, already grounded in reality with new technologies.
Local authorities said this has “opened the floodgates to car theft, crime, reckless driving and public harm”, a situation exacerbated by viral Tik Tok videos showing how to steal cars that lack immobilizers.
“Explosion of robberies in 2023”
Engine immobilizers have been a standard feature on most cars since the 1990s, preventing the engine from starting unless the key is present. “Hyundai and Kia’s business decisions to cut costs, and therefore increase profits, by forgoing common anti-theft technology, have resulted in an epidemic of theft,” the lawsuit states.
The New York City Police Department reported that about 287 Kias were stolen last year, compared to about 119 in 2021; the number is supplemented by 415 Hyundais reported stolen in 2022, up from 232 the year before.
So far from 2023 through April, an estimated 977 Hyundai and Kia vehicles have been reported stolen, nearly seven times the 148 such thefts in the same months last year.
In a statement, Hyundai said it is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of its products. “A subset of vehicles … are not equipped with ignition buttons or immobilization anti-theft devices,” he acknowledged, though he added that their systems are compliant.
With this lawsuit, the most populous city in the United States joined others that did the same, such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego and Seattle.
With Reuters and AP
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