City of Chicago Sues Kia and Hyundai Over Vulnerability to Theft

City of Chicago Sues Kia and Hyundai Over Vulnerability to Theft The city of Chicago is suing automakers Kia and Hyundai, alleging the carmakers failed to equip cars sold in the US with “vital anti-theft technology” that comes standard in almost all other car manufacturers. This failure has led to a dramatic surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts throughout the city.

The lawsuit, announced by the Mayor’s office and filed on August 24, states that:

Kia and Hyundai failed to equip their U.S. cars, sold between 2011 and 2022, with vital anti-theft technology, which almost all other car manufacturers made a standard feature over a decade ago and which Kia and Hyundai include in their vehicles sold outside of the country. The Complaint alleges that Kia and Hyundai deceptively assured consumers that these vehicles possessed “advanced” safety features, despite knowing about this critical defect and its consequences.

“The impact of car theft on Chicago residents can be deeply destabilizing, particularly for low- to middle-income workers who have fewer options for getting to work and taking care of their families,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson. “The failure of Kia and Hyundai to install basic auto-theft prevention technology in these models is sheer negligence, and as a result, a citywide and nationwide crime spree around automobile theft has been unfolding right before our eyes.”

What is the defect?

In the beginning of 2021, videos started circulating on the internet, particularly on TikTok, featuring guides on how to bypass security and start specific models of Kia and Hyundai cars using a USB cable and a screwdriver. The absence of immobilizers in these vehicles enables this method, as reported by the Associated Press.

As a result, there was a surge in car thefts across the country. In February, the companies introduced a software update designed to address the vulnerability facilitating this type of unauthorized starting. However, data examined by the AP revealed that vehicle thefts continued to rise even after these updates were implemented.

Per the Mayor’s office:

Since videos posted on social media exposed this defect, thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in Chicago surged from about 500 in the first half of 2022 to more than 8,350 during the second half of the year. Thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles continue to comprise more than half of all vehicles stolen in Chicago in 2023.

The legal complaint highlights that while engine immobilizers, a security technology that uses a key with a specialized chip to transmit an encrypted signal for starting the car, are commonly equipped in the majority of cars sold in the US, they are lacking in numerous Kia and Hyundai vehicles sold in the country.

The AP notes that:

Hyundai and Kia announced in February that they would provide software updates for vehicles that require the key to be in the ignition switch to turn the car on. The change also updates the cars’ theft alarm software to extend the length of an alarm from 30 seconds to 1 minute. About 3.8 million Hyundai cars and 4.5 million Kia cars are eligible for the software update.

But the service campaign by the affiliated Korean automakers is not a recall, which comes with reporting requirements and is monitored closely by NHTSA.

Chicago wrote in the complaint, “Unlike the movies, hot-wiring vehicles is far harder than it appears—unless that vehicle was manufactured by Hyundai or Kia.”

Kia and Hyundai have neglected to rectify their failure, declining to furnish necessary steering wheel locks as requested by the City. Furthermore, they have exploited the situation by charging consumers for security kits.

Said Interim Superintendent Fred Waller, “This is about saving lives and preventing the violent crimes that these stolen vehicles are used in. As law enforcement, we are doing everything we can to prevent these thefts, but these vehicle companies must also be held accountable.”

The legal action, submitted in Illinois state court, seeks the court’s intervention to levy penalties on the two firms, compel them to provide compensation to the city for damages, and impose a restraining order on the company to prohibit the promotion of its vehicles as possessing leading safety attributes. The city is also requesting a trial by jury.

Chicago is not the first city suing the automakers. The City of Milwaukee announced a lawsuit back in March, as well as New York City back in June.

Am I responsible if my car is stolen and involved in an accident?

If your car is stolen and involved in an accident, the driver of the stolen vehicle is usually responsible for any injuries or damages. The owner of the stolen vehicle and their insurance are not liable.

If the thief has insurance, you can file a claim through their insurance carrier. If they don’t have insurance, you may need to file a civil lawsuit against them. Our Chicago attorneys are here to help with this.

If you have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, you are generally covered if it is stolen. If you are a victim of auto theft, you should file a report with your local police station and contact your insurance company.

The Chicago attorneys at Gainsberg Injury and Accident Lawyers will be watching this lawsuit with interest and will keep you posted on any updates. In the meantime, if you (or your vehicle) are involved in an accident that was not your fault, talk to us today for experienced legal guidance. You can call our offices or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.