Drivers applaud City of Chicago lawsuit against Kia, Hyundai over theft vulnerability, car
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The City of Chicago lawsuit against carmakers Kia and Hyundai says they failed to install critical technology into their cars, which has resulted in a "steep rise in vehicle thefts, reckless driving, property damage, and a wide array of related violent crimes" in the city.
Some local drivers gave major kudos to the city for the suit, and said they believe it's time to hold the manufacturers accountable for what they called gross negligence.
READ MORE: CPD warn thieves stealing Kias, Hyundais using method shown on social media
Fontaina Spight and his fiancée Gail own a 2020 Hyundai Elantra. They said it was stolen on January 14, and now they can barely stand to look at it.
"You have a strong sense of feeling violated, like someone has invaded your personal space and taken something that was not theirs," Gail said.
"We use that car to go to work, we use that car to take our granddaughters everywhere. And I had over $6,000 worth of drum equipment that they stole, so it cost me dearly," Fontaina said.
The complaint, filed Thursday in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleges that the two manufacturers failed to equip cars sold in the U.S. between 2011 and 2022 with "vital anti-theft technology" that the city says comes standard in "almost all other car manufacturers," as well as Kia and Hyundai models sold abroad.
The lawsuit accuses Kia and Hyundai of deceiving consumers by assuring them the cars had "advanced" safety features, despite knowing about the defect.
The city said once videos were posted on social media showing the defects, thefts of Kias and Hyundais surged from about 500 in the first half of 2022 to more than 8,350 in the second half of 2022. The city says Kia and Hyundai thefts still comprise more than half of all vehicle thefts in Chicago in 2023.
RELATED: CPD warns of nearly a dozen more thefts of Hyundai, Kia cars on West Side
"You can't get away with this. You have to be responsible," Gail said.
Kia said it is taking action by making it more difficult for criminals to use methods of theft.
The automaker said, "Kia has already notified all eligible owners and lessees of these vehicle models - over 3 million total - that they are able to receive the free security software upgrade that we have developed. To date, nearly 650,000 vehicles nationwide have received the upgrade, which is designed to restrict the operation of the vehicle's ignition system should a potential criminal attempt to steal a locked vehicle without the key...Lawsuits filed by municipalities against Kia are without merit. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that this issue does not constitute a safety defect."
Hyundai said it has also developed a free software upgrade to owners, which is available for about 3.8 million vehicles between 2011 and 2022.
Hyundai is also "providing free steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies for distribution to local residents who own or lease affected models." Hyundai said it "remains committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of its products, all of which are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements."
Gail and Fontaina said they got a software upgrade but are still uneasy.
"Someone came in here and they touched everywhere. That sense of violation doesn't go away," Gail said.
The city said it has had to bear the cost of property damage and law enforcement resources as a result of Kia and Hyundai thefts. The city said it will be asking the court to consider restitution for victims.
MORE COVERAGE: Kia, Hyundai agree to pay $200 million over theft issues
Full statement from Kia
Kia continues to take action to help our customers by making it more difficult for criminals to use methods of theft recently popularized on social media to steal certain vehicle models. In addition to recently announcing an agreement that will allow customers who have been impacted by vehicle thefts to receive additional benefits, Kia has already notified all eligible owners and lessees of these vehicle models - over 3 million total - that they are able to receive the free security software upgrade that we have developed. To date, nearly 650,000 vehicles nationwide have received the upgrade, which is designed to restrict the operation of the vehicle's ignition system should a potential criminal attempt to steal a locked vehicle without the key. We have established a dedicated website where eligible owners can learn more about how to receive the free upgrade: https://ksupport.kiausa.com/ConsumerAffairs/SWLD and we are also working to promote the upgrade's availability and have even hosted an event to encourage eligible customers to have the upgrade installed.We also continue to provide steering wheel locks to owners of impacted vehicles that are not eligible for the software upgrade at no cost to them. Customers can obtain free, Kia-provided locks through their local law enforcement, or they can request a steering wheel lock from Kia directly through the dedicated website. To date, we have distributed more than 190,000 locks and we will continue to provide them as they are needed.Lawsuits filed by municipalities against Kia are without merit. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that this issue does not constitute a safety defect or non-compliance with applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 114 that governs theft protection measures.Kia has been and continues to be willing to work cooperatively with law enforcement agencies in Chicago to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it, and we remain committed to supporting our customers and to vehicle security.
Full statement from Hyundai
This technology was available for many Hyundai models, and generally became more available over time. For some earlier models, mostly those at the entry-level trim, this technology did not come standard, although it was available for certain of these models as part of an optional package. There is no quality issue or defect with these vehicles, and they all meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Hyundai has taken several steps to enhance the security of our vehicles sold without engine immobilizers. Chief among these measures is the development and validation of a software upgrade, at no cost to the owners of these vehicles, to prevent the theft mode popularized on social media. This upgrade is available for approximately 3,800,000 vehicles covering model years 2011-2022.Hyundai is also continuing our existing national program to provide steering wheel locks to law enforcement and the reception to this program has been exceptionally positive. Hyundai has also initiated a program to reimburse affected customers for their purchase of steering wheel locks. These steps reflect our commitment to prioritizing the safety of our customers. All Hyundai vehicles produced since November 2021 are equipped with an engine immobilizer as standard equipment. Hyundai is also providing free steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies for distribution to local residents who own or lease affected models.Hyundai is committed to the comprehensive actions we are undertaking to assist customers and communities affected by the persistent theft of certain vehicles not equipped with push-button ignitions and engine immobilizers. Our dealers across the country are maximizing the number of anti-theft software installations that can be performed on a daily basis, contributing to steadily increasing completion rates, which we report to NHTSA weekly. Hyundai recently piloted a mobile service center in Washington, D.C. (Link) and plans to replicate in additional markets through year-end to further scale and speed installation of the software upgrade.We remain committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products, all of which are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements. For more information, please visit www.hyundaiantitheft.com.
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