Kia and Hyundai have agreed to a settlement of approximately $200 million to resolve a class-action lawsuit that accused the automakers of producing vehicles prone to theft, according to lawyers representing the car owners and manufacturers. The settlement impacts approximately nine million vehicle owners and comes at a time when the country is experiencing a surge in auto thefts, partly due to viral videos on platforms like TikTok and YouTube that showcase the ease with which Kia and Hyundai vehicles can be stolen.
Lawyers involved in the case released a statement claiming that the automakers neglected to equip several models produced between 2011 and 2022 with an immobilizer, a standard anti-theft device that requires a code from the vehicle’s smart key to start the engine. This omission allowed individuals to create online videos demonstrating how to start these vehicles using a regular USB charging cord or a similar object. Additionally, design flaws such as easily accessible ignition assemblies enabled the theft of these vehicles in less than 90 seconds.
Steve Berman, a lawyer representing the affected vehicle owners, expressed that the settlement aimed to cover a wide range of losses suffered by owners, from those fortunate enough to have avoided theft to those whose stolen cars were completely totaled due to the manufacturer’s negligence.
The settlement, subject to approval by a federal judge, could be valued at around $200 million, with the manufacturers setting aside up to $145 million to address out-of-pocket losses incurred by owners. In their statement, Hyundai and Kia confirmed that they would also reimburse owners for expenses like insurance deductibles, increased premiums, and other theft-related losses. While the companies operate independently, Hyundai is the parent company of Kia Motors.
Kia and Hyundai Settle Class-Action Lawsuit Over Vehicle Theft Vulnerability
Additional Support To The Affected
The manufacturers highlighted their commitment to customer security and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to provide additional support to owners affected by criminal activity targeting their vehicles. They emphasized that ongoing efforts would include software upgrades and the distribution of steering wheel locks to prevent thefts.
The settlement covers eligible vehicles, including various Kia models such as the Kia Sportage, Kia Sorento, and Kia Sedona, which can receive a software upgrade to address the lack of an immobilizer.
The law firm Hagens Berman, representing the vehicle owners, stated that settlement websites would soon be available for affected individuals. The firm criticized the automakers, asserting that consumers who purchased the affected Kia and Hyundai cars deserved better, and accused the companies of prioritizing cost-cutting over adequate theft protection.
One Step Behind Others
A 2021 report by the Highway Loss Data Institute revealed that Hyundai and Kia lagged behind other manufacturers in installing immobilizers. In 2015, only 26 percent of Hyundai and Kia vehicle series came with passive immobilizers as standard equipment, compared to 96 percent among other manufacturers.
Source: The New York Times