St. Louis joins other cities in lawsuit against Kia, Hyundai over car thefts
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - St. Louis is joining several other cities in a lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia over car thefts.
Mayor Tishaura Jones announced the lawsuit Monday morning, saying the automakers’ refusal to install anti-theft technology has led to an uptick in stolen cars across the nation.
“Their failure to equip Kias and Hyundais with an immobilizer technology has resulted in an increased expenditure of city resources, forcing St. Louis to devote significant manpower to documenting, investigating and recovering stolen Kia or Hyundai vehicles,” Mayor Jones said.
Mayor Jones added that in St. Louis, it has also led to other violent crimes such as shootings, burglaries and crashes.
“By refusing to follow industry standards making their cars so easy that a child could do it, Kia and Hyundai created a public safety hazard in cities across the country and put a target on the backs of their customers,” she said.
Before filing the lawsuit, the mayor says the city reached out to both Kia and Hyundai to rectify this but says neither made serious efforts to fix the problem.
News 4 asked the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) for the latest numbers of vehicle thefts. They reported in 2022, there were 7,255 incident reports for vehicle thefts. Of those reports, 2,016 listed a vehicle make of Hyundai, and 1,946 listed a vehicle make of Kia.
So far in 2023, SLMPD found 1,594 incident reports for vehicle thefts. Of those reports, 423 listed a vehicle make of Hyundai, and 380 listed a vehicle make of Kia. So far in 2023, Kias and Hyundais are responsible for more than half of all cars stolen.
Police Chief Robert Tracy says investigating and recovering these stolen cars requires a lot of police manpower.
“We have to go out and continually take a look at these vehicles,” Chief Tracy says. “These stolen vehicles are coming up and they’re not stopping. They’re being used for other crimes. They’re used for violent crimes. We have to make sure we spend special attention to these types of things and people who are driving around in them to make sure we address this situation which, once again, takes a lot of our resources.”
The lawsuit also claims between May 2022 and February 2023, there were reports of an average of 15 Kia and Hyundai vehicles being stolen per day.
With the lawsuit, the city is asking for accountability from the automakers as well as for them to pay damages in excess of $75,000, attorneys’ fees, punitive damages and such other and further relief that the court deems proper.
Other cities joining the lawsuit include Seattle, San Diego, Cleveland, Columbus and Milwaukee.
Caleb Wilson had his Hyundai stolen twice in the city.
“I hope it’s successful,” Wilson said. “I’m not sure I’m super optimistic given the success we have going up against these companies but at the same time it’s great to hold them accountable and at least let them know this is something that we’re going to take note of and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Kia sent News 4 the following statement in response:
Kia remains deeply concerned that car theft targeting certain models – encouraged by social media content promoting criminal conduct – is an issue. To address these crimes, we continue to roll out a free, enhanced security software upgrade to restrict the unauthorized operation of vehicle ignition systems and we are also providing steering wheel locks for impacted owners at no cost through local law enforcement agencies. To date, Kia has already contacted nearly 1.5 million owners and lessees of Kia vehicles to let them know of the availability of the software upgrade and to advise them to schedule a free installation at any Kia dealer. We have also shipped or are in the process of shipping over 27,000 free steering wheel locks to over 140 law enforcement agencies across the country, including close to 1500 locks to police departments in the St. Louis area, and we will continue to provide additional free locks as needed. All Kia vehicles are subject to and comply fully with rigorous testing rules and regulations outlined in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including under FMVSS 114 that governs ignition security systems and theft protection. Lawsuits against Kia by municipalities are without merit. Kia has been and continues to be willing to work cooperatively with law enforcement agencies in St. Louis to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it. Customers should visit https://ksupport.kiausa.com/ConsumerAffairs/SWLD for more information on their eligibility for the upgrade or to learn more about directly obtaining a steering wheel lock.
In a statement to News 4 Hyundai said:
“In response to increasing and persistent thefts targeting our vehicles without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices in the United States, Hyundai: (1) made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021; (2) introduced a free software upgrade to prevent the method of theft involved; (3) rolled the software upgrade out to more than 1 million customers, with the remaining approximately 3 million affected customers to be eligible for the upgrade within the coming weeks; (4) initiated a program to reimburse affected customers for their purchase of steering wheel locks; and (5) continues to provide free steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies across the country for distribution to local residents who own or lease affected models.”
Hyundai also linked to a media statement from Feb. 14.
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