Hyundai and Kia owners have suffered greatly since their easy-to-steal cars became a well-known target thanks to social media. The issue later spawned a class action lawsuit, with both companies now deciding to settle the matter with a large cash sum.
According to a press release from law firm Hagens Berman, the suit has been settled for the sum of $200 million. It was brought on the basis that Hyundai and Kia had failed to equip a large swathe of 2011-2022 models with immobilizers. The cars, which use traditional physical ignition keys, are trivial to steal compared to most other modern cars on the market.
Stealing these cars quickly became a TikTok trend in 2021 when Milwaukee's so-called "Kia Boyz" shared videos of their exploits online. Instructional videos proliferated showing how easy it was to steal them. Beyond the lack of an immobilizer, affected cars had particularly easy-to-disassemble steering columns and ignition barrels that could be easily removed. Once pulled apart, a simple USB cable or pair of pliers would be enough to turn the ignition barrel stub and start the car.
The settlement was designed to address hardships for owners of affected vehicles, totaling roughly 4.5 million Kias and 4.5 million Hyundais respectively.
“The settlement will provide benefits as soon as possible to those who have suffered out-of-pocket losses due to car thefts in Hyundai and Kia cars without immobilizers,” said Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman. "The agreement also offers upgrades to fix the lack of immobilizer at the heart of the issue, as well as payments to those who are not eligible for the upgrade.”
$145 million of the settlement is earmarked for out-of-pocket losses for owners. Those who suffered a total loss of their vehicle may be eligible for damages up to $6,125, while those with damaged vehicles or personal property may be compensated up to $3,375. Other compensation will cover costs like rental cars, rideshare costs, insurance, towing, and other miscellaneous expenses. For those owners that have already had their stolen car covered by insurance, an extra payout will be a welcome thing. For those that were perhaps uninsured or otherwise missed out, it may not go a long way to covering what they lost—but it's certainly better than nothing.
As we previously covered, Hyundai and Kia will also offer owners a software upgrade to help address the problem. The update reconfigures the cars to only start after the car has been properly unlocked with the key fob. Most of the affected Kia and Hyundai cars are eligible for the upgrade, barring some outlier models. Owners of the latter will be offered a reimbursement of $300 to fit other anti-theft systems, wheel locks, or aftermarket modifications. While the update has been available since February, the rollout is slowly going, and thefts continue to rise in some cities.
While $200 million might sound like a lot of money, it doesn't come to much when spread over 9 million cars. In any case, it's a drop in the ocean for Hyundai and Kia, which posted profits in the billions last year. Owners eager to know more about the lawsuit can contact Hagens Berman online via their website.
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