NYC Sues Hyundai and Kia Over Constant Car Thefts

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The Big Apple thinks South Korean cars are a steal. And it’s taking legal action.

New York City is the latest metropolis to sue carmakers Hyundai and Kia because their vehicles are easy targets for thieves. The Big Apple claims the “virtual explosion” in carjackings recently “opened the floodgates to vehicle theft, crime sprees, reckless driving, and public harm.”

Easy as 1, 2, 3

The South Korean carmakers are known for producing some of the cheapest rides on the market. The 2022 Kia Rio sedan is priced at just $16,500 MSRP, and Hyundai’s latest Venue subcompact SUV is only $19,500. The problem is bargain prices like that often come with setbacks.

NYC blames Hyundai and Kia for failing to outfit the majority of their vehicles with immobilizers — anti-theft measures in key fobs and ignitions that keep crooks from hot-wiring cars. By 2015, immobilizers were standard in 96% of new vehicles on the market but only 26% of Hyundai and Kias, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All of this, the city argues, led to an uptick in stolen car reports. The Financial Times reported that in the last quarter of 2022, Hyundai thefts surged from 12 to 104 in New York while Kia thefts jumped from 10 to 99:

  • Despite what movies like “Gone in Sixty Seconds” would have you believe, most thieves aren’t looking for the big score. They’re looking for something easy to steal, and Hyundai and Kia are pretty a walk in the park. The Kia Boys is a viral TikTok trend where teens steal Kias with nothing more than a screwdriver and a USB cable because they fit well in the cars’ ignitions.
  • NYC joins other major cities that have sued the two companies including St. Louis, Cleveland, San Diego, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Seattle, and Columbus, Ohio. Last month, Hyundai and Kia settled a $200 million class action lawsuit that covered 9 million drivers in the US.

Bad Reputation: In addition to lawsuits and settlements, Hyundai and Kia are having to spend money upgrading people’s cars with new safety software and free wheel locks. “The issue will negatively affect the carmakers’ brand image, making some customers shun Hyundai and Kia cars,” Lee Hang-koo, adviser at Korea Automotive Technology Institute, told the FT. “The ballooning legal costs and compensation amount will also eat into their finances.” Maybe throw in some car fresheners. That might do the trick.