New York City has taken legal action against Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Corp, alleging negligence and the creation of a public nuisance due to the sale of easily stealable vehicles. This lawsuit follows similar actions by several other major cities, including Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego, and Seattle, against the South Korean automakers.
In the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, New York City criticized Hyundai and Kia for their failure to equip most of their vehicles with anti-theft devices called immobilizers from 2011 to 2022. This omission sets them apart from other automobile manufacturers and has made their cars “nearly unique” in terms of vulnerability to theft.
According to New York City, this oversight has led to a surge in vehicle thefts, crime sprees, reckless driving, and public harm. The situation has been exacerbated by TikTok videos demonstrating how to steal cars that lack push-button ignitions and immobilizers. Last year, the number of reported stolen Hyundais and Kias doubled, and the first four months of 2023 saw a significant increase, with 977 reported thefts compared to 148 in the same period in 2022. In contrast, thefts of BMW, Ford, Honda, Mercedes, Nissan, and Toyota vehicles have decreased this year.
The complaint filed by New York City seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from the automakers. Hyundai responded to the lawsuit by stating that it made immobilizers standard on all vehicles in November 2021. It also mentioned implementing measures such as software upgrades to mitigate the threat of theft. Similarly, Kia emphasized its anti-theft efforts and claimed to be collaborating with New York City law enforcement to address car thefts. Both automakers dismissed the lawsuit as lacking merit.