New York City sues Hyundai, Kia after security flaw leads wave of car theft

New York City has sued Hyundai and Kia, joining a host of other cities reeling from a wave of car thefts fueled by social media over a flaw that made certain car models highly vulnerable to theft.

Viral how-to videos on TikTok and other sites show how to start cars using only USB cables and a screwdriver. The reason is that some models sold by Hyundai and Kia in the US came without an immobilizer, a standard feature on most cars since the 1990s that prevents the engine from starting unless the key is present.

The suit, which was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York late Tuesday, alleges that Hyundai Motor America and Kia America Inc failed to keep pace with other automakers by not adopting immobilizer technology that ensures the ignition cannot be started. The Car. without their keys.

The lawsuit states, “Hyundai and Kia’s business decisions to cut costs, and thus increase profits, by abandoning popular anti-theft technology, have led to an epidemic of thefts.”

The city claims that vehicle thefts drain police department resources, as well as negatively impact public safety and emergency services.

The New York City Police Department reported that about 287 Kia vehicles were stolen last year, compared to about 119 in 2021. Nearly 415 Hyundais were reported stolen in 2022, compared to 232 in the previous year. And the problem persists, 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 country’s most populous city, joins a growing list of cities going after automakers after a string of thefts, including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego and Seattle.

New York City, which is seeking a jury trial, is asking for an injunction to mitigate the public inconvenience caused by Hyundai and Kia or contribute to economic losses incurred as a result of the inconvenience and injunctive damages.

Hyundai and Kia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last month, Hyundai and Kia reached a settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit sparked by an increase in car thefts.

The companies said at the time that the settlement could be worth up to $200 million and cover about 9 million 2011-2022 Hyundai and Kia vehicles in the United States.

The proposed settlement is expected to be reviewed in court for initial approval in July.

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