Traffic in New York City. Hyundai and Kia vehicles are apparently too easy to steal, according to a lawsuit filed by the city of New York (symbolic image). © IMAGO/Richard B. Levine
Thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars increased sixfold in New York. The metropolis is now filing a lawsuit against the manufacturers.
New York City – The city of New York is taking on South Korean carmaker Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia and filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court, Reuters reported on Wednesday (7 June). From 2011 to 2022, manufacturers are said to have failed to equip a large proportion of their cars with immobilizers. Apparently, viral TikTok videos had also helped to publicize the vulnerability, so that thefts became more frequent.
New York City vs. Kia and Hyundai: Automakers create "public nuisance"
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday, June 6, accuses Kia and Hyundai of negligently creating public nuisance by selling vehicles that are too easy to steal. The metropolis of New York is demanding damages, the amount of which, however, was not initially known. According to the data, there have already been six times more thefts from Hyundais and Kias in the first four months of this year than in the same period last year. Last year, the number of stolen vehicles of the two South Korean brands had already doubled. This is remarkable in that thefts of other car brands have declined over the same period.
Videos on the social media TikTok are said to have played a role in the explosion of thefts. According to a Spiegel report, the footage showed how cars can be stolen without an immobilizer and start button and apparently found numerous imitators. According to CNBC, the cars could be short-circuited with a USB cable. The viral TikTok challenge began in 2021 and also led to an 2022 percent increase in Hyundai and Kia thefts in the U.S. city of Chicago in August 800, and in Los Angeles the numbers climbed by 85 percent compared to the same period last year, CNBC reported.
TikTok videos apparently gave instructions for theft: lawsuits also in other US cities
"By prioritizing profit over safety and deviating from industry norms because they did not provide immobilizers as a standard safety feature, the defendants created and maintained a public nuisance," the lawsuit said. The accusation is likely to sound familiar to the South Korean carmakers, because other major US cities – including San Diego, Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Seattle – had already filed lawsuits for inadequate protection against theft.
In a reaction, Hyundai said that since November 2021, all vehicles have had immobilizers as standard. In February, automakers announced that they would offer software updates for around 8.3 million U.S. cars without immobilizers. Kia is committed to "supporting our customers and vehicle safety," according to a statement, CNBC reported. In mid-May, Hyundai and Kai agreed to a $200 million settlement in a consumer class action lawsuit on the same issue, Reuters reported.
Shares of South Korea's two largest carmakers fell on Wednesday. In the first quarter of 2023, however, rising sales and favorable currency effects had weighed on Hyundai's sharp jump in profits. The surplus increased by 92.4 percent year-on-year to about 3.42 trillion won (2.3 billion euros), South Korea's industry leader announced at the end of April. Together with its smaller sister Kia, Hyundai Motor is one of the world's ten largest car manufacturers.