After a surge in car thefts targeting some models made by Hyundai and Kia, the two automakers, owned by the same company, now face a class action lawsuit.
Sebastian Cole of Milwaukee filed the complaint in Wisconsin’s Eastern District Court, seeking class-action status. The suit says Cole was a car theft victim in July 2021 when his 2018 Kia Forte was stolen.
The theft occurred amid a flurry of similar crimes that coincided with a viral TikTok video that showed how some Hyundai and Kia models could be easily stolen. The video targeted older models that did not feature immobilizers that are now standard on most cars and trucks, making them much harder to steal.
Last week Hyundai and Kia announced they have developed theft deterrent software for the millions of their vehicles that lack an immobilizer. Hyundai and Kia said they will provide it free of charge to vehicle owners.
Cole says that doesn’t do him much good now. The suit said his Kia was recovered a few days after it was stolen with a broken window and damage both inside and outside of the vehicle. The suit also said thieves stole several items that were inside the car.
Owners of the affected models who weren’t victims of thefts experienced other problems. In January CNN reported that both State Farm and Progressive have quietly decided they will no longer issue policies for some 2015 through 2019 Kia and Hyundai models because they were too easy to steal.
An immobilizer is a powerful anti-theft feature because it prevents vehicles from being started without a chip-bearing key that transmits a code to the ignition. Kia and Hyundai were slow to add the feature to their entire fleet as other automakers have.
The lawsuit is asking for unspecified damages, as well as injunctive relief. The lawsuit also seeks to represent other plaintiffs who purchased or leased a 2011-2022 Kia or a 2015-2022 Hyundai with an “insert-and-turn” key ignition system.