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Hyundai and Kia Are Facing Class-Action Lawsuits Because Their Cars Are Too Easy To Steal

If you own a Hyundai or a Kia, you should be rightfully worried about your car being stolen. That is a real possibility, especially as the internet is flooded with videos showing how easy it is to start the engine without a key. This is why both companies now face a legal and financial nightmare as class-action lawsuits are mounting.
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Skimping on security is not a good idea, but Korean companies have done it nevertheless. Many 2016-2021 Hyundai vehicles and all Kias built between 2011 and 2021 with a key ignition lack the electronic immobilizer that is supposed to prevent the engine from starting without the original key. This has made cars vulnerable to thieves.

The news spread like fire, so Kia and Hyundai thefts soared to unprecedented levels. Videos showing how easy it is to steal a Kia or a Hyundai were posted on the internet. There’s even a TikTok challenge, aptly called “Kia Challenge.” A crime ring called the “Kia Boyz” started spreading among cities and stealing Kia vehicles. The surge of stolen Kias and Hyundais began in Milwaukee and has since spread to other states, escalating into a nationwide problem.

You imagine what this means for Kia and Hyundai owners across the country. Understandably, they now try to stick it to the carmakers, which were responsible in the first place. According to Automotive News, Hyundai and Kia are named in 15 class-action lawsuits filed by vehicle owners in 14 states. The plaintiffs allege that the vehicles are defective because they lack an immobilizer and thus can be hot-wired too easily. Their case is solid, as the car thieves have been targeting Kia and Hyundai owners for months.

The list of vulnerable vehicles includes lower trim levels of Accent, Elantra, Elantra GT, Sonata, Veloster, Venue, Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe, Santa Fe Sport, Santa Fe XL, and Palisade vehicles in the 2016-2021 model years, according to a Hyundai spokesperson. The issue affects models with turn-key ignitions, so the cars with a push-button start are not affected. The list of impacted Kia vehicles is even longer. According to a Kia spokesperson, any car built between 2011 and 2021 that uses a steel key is at risk.

More class-action lawsuits are forthcoming, says Kevin Stanley, an attorney with the law firm that filed 13 out of the 15 suits in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, and Texas, in the past fourth months alone. The issue has grown so fast that it deserves national treatment.

“The rapidity at which this issue has both spread as a phenomenon in terms of the cars being stolen, and the number of cases which have come to our attention, and that we filed in a relatively short order demonstrates the nationwide problem of a large scale that needs a solution,” Kenneth McClain, the lead attorney on the class actions, told Automotive News.

It is unclear how this would affect financially the two carmakers, which operate independently but belong to the same automotive group. The lawsuits would have to consider the decline of the resale value of the affected vehicles, the cost of installing an immobilizer, and the increased cost of insurance for everyone with a Kia or a Hyundai.

The suits also seek to initiate a nationwide recall, which could be a disaster for the Korean company that owns the two brands. Rough estimates indicate that the total number of affected vehicles in the U.S. is about 10 million. If an immobilizer costs $500, that’s a $5 billion recall.

In the meantime, Hyundai tries to mitigate the problem by distributing steering wheel locks at no charge to consumers with affected vehicles. The company also urges owners to buy and install a security kit at an authorized dealer. This is laughable, considering that many affected cars are over a decade old, and the cost of adding such a device is around $700. This is too much for people who stretched their savings to buy a used Kia.

 
 
 
 
 

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