Kia, Hyundai Blame Mass Car Thefts on ‘Lax Policing’ in Court Defense
Cities want compensation for an uptick in thefts, but Kia and Hyundai aren’t giving any ground.
We've covered most storylines regarding the Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts occurring across the nation. The Korean automaker is now being sued over the matter, with victims alleging that its negligence is causing them financial losses and even their peace of mind. However, the Kia and Hyundai conglomerate is fighting back, blaming the problem on "lax policing."
As covered by Reuters, 17 cities have filed lawsuits against Kia and Hyundai, accusing the companies of failing to fit appropriate anti-theft technology into their vehicles. The automakers have now pushed for a U.S. judge to throw out the lawsuits. The core argument from the companies is that liability for thefts should not lie with them, given they resulted "from an unprecedented criminal social-media phenomenon."
That statement refers to a spate of videos posted to TikTok and other social media platforms. These videos guided viewers on how to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles that lacked push-button starts and ignition immobilizers. The ease of breaking into these vehicles led to a craze that saw joyriders like the "Kia Boyz" openly posting videos of thefts, with Kia and Hyundai models quickly topping the stolen vehicle charts in several jurisdictions.
Hyundai and Kia also contested that "lax policing and prosecution policies" played a role in the matter, as did budgetary measures that saw police resources directed away from preventing auto theft. The automakers claim that this is more relevant to increased thefts than the lack of immobilizers on Hyundai and Kia vehicles.
It's a bold contention, but one that is difficult to rectify with real-world data. By 2015, immobilizers were standard on 96% of vehicles sold in the U.S., but only 26% on Kia and Hyundai vehicles, according to data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Plus, data from some cities suggests the two automakers are over-represented in theft statistics. The city of Milwaukee saw Kia and Hyundai models make up over two-thirds of all car thefts during a period in 2021 after thefts of those two brands rose 2,500% in just one year.
Notably, May saw both automakers agree to settle a class action lawsuit for $200 million in favor of affected owners. The suit saw owners compensated for out-of-pocket losses as a result of theft and related damage to their vehicles. Initial approval was denied by a judge but the matter will be addressed later this month by the automakers. In the meantime, Kia and Hyundai are rolling out fixes, but it's a slow process and doesn't entirely make up for the lack of an immobilizer in affected vehicles.
Fundamentally, the automaker's argument is a difficult one. If the problem was entirely down to bad policing, you'd expect to see increased thefts spread out across a broad swath of automakers. In any case, Kia and Hyundai's lawyers will be working hard to prove the problem and fault isn't theirs. Meanwhile, the cities will do their best to convince the courts that the Korean automakers were asleep at the wheel.
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