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New York City goes after Hyundai, Kia after security flaw leads to wave of social media fueled theft

by Ethan Kim
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lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia over car thefts

New York City has taken legal action against Hyundai and Kia, joining numerous other cities grappling with a surge in car thefts fueled by social media activity. The thefts were facilitated by a security flaw that made certain car models highly vulnerable.

Videos demonstrating how to start these vehicles using only USB cables and a screwdriver became viral on platforms like TikTok. The root cause was the absence of engine immobilizers in some Hyundai and Kia models sold in the United States. Engine immobilizers, a standard feature in most cars since the 1990s, prevent the engine from starting without the key present.

Late on Tuesday, the city filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, alleging that Hyundai Motor America and Kia America Inc. neglected to incorporate immobilizer technology, which is common among other automakers, to ensure that car ignitions could not be started without their respective keys.

According to the lawsuit, “Hyundai’s and Kia’s business decisions to reduce costs, and thereby boost profits, by foregoing common anti-theft technology have resulted in an epidemic of thefts.”

The city argues that these vehicle thefts are placing a strain on its police department’s resources and having a detrimental impact on public safety and emergency services.

In 2022, the New York City police department reported that approximately 287 Kias were stolen, compared to around 119 in 2021. Similarly, 415 Hyundais were reported stolen in 2022, up from 232 the previous year. The problem has persisted, with an estimated 977 Hyundai and Kia vehicles reported stolen in the first four months of this year, compared to only 148 during the same period last year.

New York City, the most populous city in the nation, now joins a growing list of cities pursuing legal action against the car manufacturers following a series of thefts. Some of the cities include Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego, and Seattle.

New York City is seeking a trial by jury and requests an order that addresses the public nuisance created or contributed to by Hyundai and Kia. The city also seeks compensation for the economic losses suffered as a result of this nuisance, along with injunctive relief.

Hyundai and Kia have not yet responded to requests for comment.

Last month, Hyundai and Kia reached a settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit prompted by the increase in vehicle thefts. The settlement, which could amount to $200 million, covers approximately 9 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles from model years 2011 to 2022 in the United States. The proposed settlement is expected to undergo preliminary approval in court in July.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia over car thefts

What is the lawsuit about?

The lawsuit is about New York City taking legal action against Hyundai and Kia due to a security flaw in certain car models that made them susceptible to theft. The flaw allowed thieves to start the cars using USB cables and a screwdriver.

What are the allegations against Hyundai and Kia?

The allegations state that Hyundai Motor America and Kia America Inc. failed to adopt immobilizer technology, which is a common anti-theft feature in most cars. This negligence is claimed to have resulted in a significant increase in car thefts in New York City and other cities.

How are social media and car thefts connected in this case?

Social media platforms like TikTok became a breeding ground for viral how-to videos demonstrating the car theft technique using USB cables and a screwdriver. These videos played a significant role in popularizing the method and contributing to the surge in thefts.

How has this affected New York City?

New York City’s police department has reported a substantial increase in stolen vehicles, putting a strain on their resources and impacting public safety and emergency services. The thefts have grown in number over the years, leading to economic losses and a threat to public well-being.

What is New York City seeking through this lawsuit?

New York City is seeking a trial by jury and requesting an order that addresses the public nuisance caused by Hyundai and Kia’s failure to incorporate proper anti-theft technology. The city also seeks compensation for the economic losses suffered as a result of the thefts and injunctive relief to prevent further incidents.

Has there been any previous legal action related to this issue?

Yes, Hyundai and Kia recently reached a settlement for a class-action lawsuit regarding the surge in car thefts. The settlement, valued at around $200 million, covers approximately 9 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles in the United States from model years 2011 to 2022. However, the settlement is still awaiting preliminary approval in court.

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