Hyundai and Kia battle back against cities’ lawsuits over TikTok-famous car thefts

This 2017 Kia Sportage's key hole wears permanent damage from rampant theft attempts. The Denver Post/Getty Images

Kia and Hyundai are fighting back against claims from multiple U.S. cities that the automakers were at fault for a rash of car thefts.

“Hyundai and Kia have asked a California federal judge to slash consolidated claims from hundreds of insurers and over a dozen U.S. cities suing the automakers over the alleged car theft ‘crime wave’ that was unleashed nationwide after a viral TikTok trend popularized tips for breaking into their vehicles,” said Transportation Law 360.

The thefts occurred after TikTok videos showed viewers how to steal older Kia and Hyundai models that still used keyed ignition. Seventeen cities are suing the automakers, including New York, Cleveland, San Diego, Milwaukee, Columbus and Seattle, said Reuters. “The automakers, controlled by the same conglomerate, said in a court filing they should not be held liable for thefts ‘resulting from an unprecedented criminal social-media phenomenon.'”

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Kia and Hyundai claim that the cities’ “lax policing and prosecution policies” and “budgetary decision-making that diverted public safety resources away from the prevention and disruption of auto theft and reckless joyriding” was more relevant than Hyundai or Kia failing to equip vehicles with anti-theft immobilizers, Reuters said.

To settle one class-action lawsuit, Hyundai and Kia have already agreed to pay more than $200 million to owners of as many as 9 million theft-prone vehicles that lacked engine immobilizers, said Automotive News. The automakers did not include the immobilizers, which prevents the engine from starting without a key, on base trims levels of certain 2011–2021 model-year Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

A portion of the settlement, $145 million, will go toward out-of-pocket losses experienced by owners, including vehicles lost or stolen. Steve Berman, managing partner at the Hagens Berman law firm in Seattle and lead attorney in the lawsuit, said in a statement that they “worked to achieve a settlement that covers many types of losses—from those who were lucky enough to have never had their theft-prone car stolen, to those whose stolen cars were totaled completely due to Hyundai and Kia’s negligence.”




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    And yet nobody is suing Amazon when porch pirates strike. These cases against Kia/Hyundai are insane – it’s nobody’s fault other than those that choose to steal.

    The opting out of engine immobilizers “on some models” seems like the factor that gets Hyundai/Kia in trouble here.

    Amazon would probably be protected by the notion that “we drop off on anyone’s porch. It’s the property owner that decides if a drop box is there”. Amazon (in our experience) also deals with issues very well. My recollection of this Kia story is the company didn’t act quickly to correct or own up to the mistake.

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