A St. Paul, Minnesota man has filed a class action lawsuit alleging Kia and Hyundai automobiles were too easy to steal, leading to a dramatic and recent spike in the theft of these vehicles.
According to the Complaint, Kia and Hyundai cars do not come equipped with an engine immobilizer, a “significant defect” that gives thieves an advantage. The immobilizer functions to transmit a code to the engine when a key is in the ignition or a key fob is inside the vehicle.
Without one, a would-be thief needs only to strip the ignition column; basic tools such as a screwdriver, knife, or USB cord can then be used to start the vehicle.
The Complaint on behalf of plaintiff LaShaun Johnson, a resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, notes that thefts of Hyundai vehicles have risen 584 percent in that city, while Kia’s are 13 times more likely to be stolen than previously. Johnson’s 2019 Kia Sorrento was stolen in August, after thieves used a screwdriver to start his car, according to a subsequent police investigation.
Kia, Hyundai Anti-Theft Lawsuits
Johnson//Becker attorneys are filing Kia and Hyundai lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs in these and other states:
- New York
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
Kia, Hyundai Theft Statistics
Ramsey County Undersheriff Mike Martin blamed the increases on the “design flaw” which makes them vulnerable to the most rudimentary tools.
According to the Complaint, as of mid-2022, Kia and Hyundai were the most commonly stolen brands in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In Milwaukee, the brands accounted for two-thirds of stolen vehicles during the first half of 2021. In response to these trends, all new Kia and Hyundai vehicles are allegedly outfitted with engine immobilizers.
The change does nothing to help the thousands of Kia and Hyundai owners whose vehicles remain vulnerable to easy theft.
Despite the auto makers’ awareness of this defect, and the resulting rise in thefts, neither Kia nor Hyundai have initiated a recall. The lawsuit further alleges that Kia and Hyundai are in violation of a Federal Motor Vehicle Standard that require a vehicle cannot be started without a key.
Johnson, the plaintiff, also owns a 2013 Hyundai Sonata. According to the Complaint, he “would not have purchased [the] defective vehicles if he had known they were defective and more susceptible to theft.”
Kia, Hyundai Theft Class Action Lawsuits Filed in Tennessee, Louisiana
Plaintiffs in two more states have filed lawsuits alleging Kia and Hyundai failed to include a basic anti-theft component in their vehicles, leading to increased risks of those cars being stolen.
Because neither automaker included an engine immobilizer, which prevents cars from starting without a key in the ignition or key fob inside the car, the vehicles were particularly vulnerable. Would-be thieves can learn through viral videos online how to steal a Kia or Hyundai using only a screwdriver, knife, or USB cord.
Juliette Nevins of New Orleans, Louisiana had her 2020 Kia Rio stolen in August 2022. When the car was recovered, the damage cost Nevins a $2,000 insurance deductible.
Police in New Orleans have attested in local media that Kia and Hyundai vehicles were being targeted for easy theft in that city.
Plaintiff Tempest Walker lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where her 2018 Hyundai Sonata was stolen in July 2022. Walker paid $250 worth of an insurance deductible for necessary repairs when the vehicle was recovered.
The lawsuits are class actions, alleging that anyone who purchased or leased a vehicle in either Tennessee or Louisiana within the statute of limitations should be able to sue Kia or Hyundai for damages.