Seattle City Attorney sues Kia and Hyundai for failing to install anti-theft technology

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison filed a lawsuit Monday against car manufacturers Kia and Hyundai for failing to install anti-theft technology in some vehicles, which has contributed to an increase in car thefts in the area.

According to the city, Kia and Hyundai are aware of public safety issues surrounding the spike in theft with their vehicles and have not made steps to alleviate those concerns.

From 2021 to 2022, Kia and Hyundai thefts increased by 363% and 503%, respectively, in Seattle. In July 2022, the Seattle Police Department saw an increase of 620% in reports of stolen Kia and Hyundais, compared to July 2021.

“Kia and Hyundai chose to cut corners and cut costs at the expense of their customers and the public. As a result, our police force has had to tackle a huge rise in vehicle theft and related problems with already stretched resources. Now Seattle taxpayers must shoulder the burden of the increase in theft,” said Davison. “Kia and Hyundai need to take responsibility for the public safety hazard that they created.”

Police believe viral videos have taught thieves how easily these vehicles can be stolen — some with just a USB cable.

According to the media release, many of the stolen vehicles have been involved in major accidents, while some have also been used to commit further violent acts, such as armed robberies.

The city is seeking to recover damages and to compel car manufacturers to install anti-theft technology in unprotected vehicles.

In a statement to KIRO 7, a Hyundai spokesperson called the lawsuit “improper and unnecessary,” and said the company is sending free steering wheel locks to police departments across the country:

Hyundai believes this lawsuit is improper and unnecessary. In response to increasing thefts targeting our vehicles without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices in the United States, Hyundai Motor America has made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021. Additionally, Hyundai has taken a series of actions to deter thefts of affected vehicles, including an upcoming software update scheduled to be available beginning next month and provided at no cost to customers.

Hyundai is also providing free steering wheel locks, as available, to select law enforcement agencies across the country, including in the Seattle area, for distribution to local residents who own or lease affected models. Owners may also bring their vehicles to a local Hyundai dealer for the purchase and installation of a customized security kit. We apologize for the inconvenience to affected customers.

Hyundai is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of all our products through continuous improvement. Hyundai quality is among the best in the industry, ranking third among all brands in the 2022 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and historically above the industry average in J.D. Power’s U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS).

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