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.
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.”
Form Kia America:
Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim levels through a coordinated effort on social media. While no vehicle can be made theft-proof, criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key and “turn-to-start” ignition system. The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and “push-button-to-start” system, making them more difficult to steal. All 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the model year or as a running change. All Kia vehicles for sale in the U.S. continue to meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Kia America has provided steering wheel lock devices at no cost to law enforcement in affected areas to deter vandalism and theft. That effort will continue in close coordination with local police departments for distribution to concerned owners of Kia vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer.
Kia customers with questions regarding their specific vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (Kia).