COLUMBUS — The city of Columbus plans to file a lawsuit against Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia over what city officials said is the failure of the automakers to include industry-standard anti-theft technology in vehicles that has led to high levels of theft in central Ohio.
All that’s needed is city council’s blessing -- the approval of a contract to hire special counsel for the city.
City Attorney Zach Klein said this week in a prepared statement to our news partner WBNS-TV (10tv.com) that Hyundai and Kia have intentionally and consciously manufactured, marketed and sold vehicles that lacked security features such as engine immobilizers, reinforced steering columns and sensors designed to detect window glass breakage.
“For years, Kia and Hyundai cut corners and sold vehicles they knew were so unsafe they could be stolen with ease by a teenager with access to simple tools and a TikTok account,” Klein said. “Kia and Hyundai’s negligence in pursuit of corporate profit is unconscionable. It’s time we held these automakers accountable for cheating consumers and passing the buck and responsibility to clean up the mess they made onto the rest of us.”
WBNS-TV’s CrimeTracker 10 has reported on the rise in vehicle thefts of the two brands since the beginning of 2022, mainly at the hands of a juvenile group known as the “Kia Boys.”
“It is a daily problem for us. Daily we are arresting juveniles in stolen vehicles,” Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant said.
According to the Columbus Division of Police:
◊ 1,497 Hyundais and 1,243 Kias stolen in 2022 between Jan. 1 and Oct. 15
◊ 273 Hyundais and 224 Kias were stolen during the same time frame in 2021
◊ 17 thefts a day are occurring in Columbus, which translates into a 450% increase overall.
“It is a daily problem for us. Daily we are arresting juveniles in stolen vehicles,” Chief Bryant said. She said the police division is working with the juvenile court judges, parents, and other law enforcement departments.
Mayor Andrew Ginther said, “It’s time for Kia to step up. This is absolutely unacceptable to put so many young people at risk, families at risk. Kia needs to step up and help solve this problem.”
The deficiencies in the vehicles have been shown on social media platforms where content creators describe how to steal a Hyundai or a Kia with a screwdriver and a USB charger.
The surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts has cost consumers, insurance companies, local governments and law enforcement millions of dollars over the past year, according to Klein.
Chief Bryant said the city has reached out to the two companies for assistance but they “have received no meaningful cooperation.”
Last month, Hyundai offered security kits, at $170 (installation not included) for customers.
Klein said the city plans to ask the court to compel Hyundai and Kia to lessen the public nuisance caused by their inaction. The city also plans to prohibit the sales of unsafe vehicles and require Hyundai and Kia to recall, repair or replace the unsafe vehicles currently on the road, as well as damages in excess of $25,000, punitive damages, legal and other expenses.
Klein said the city plans to file the lawsuit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in the coming weeks.
Statement from Kia
Kia remains concerned about the recent trend among youth in some areas, encouraged by social media, to target certain Kia cars with a steel key and “turn-to-start” ignition systems. In many cases, the vehicles are stolen solely for the purpose of operating in a reckless manner. Such criminal conduct endangers our local communities and violates property rights.
While no car can be made completely theft-proof, Kia continues to make steering wheel locks available to customers through interested local law enforcement agencies, subject to available supply, at no cost to concerned owners of these vehicles.
Kia also continues its efforts to develop additional solutions for vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer, including the development and testing of enhanced security software.
All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change, and all Kia vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Customers with questions should contact the Consumer Assistance Center, 1-800-333-4542 (Kia).
Statement from Hyundai
We remain concerned about the increase in thefts of certain Hyundai vehicles that have been targeted in a coordinated social media campaign. Currently, Hyundai provides steering wheel locks, as available, to law enforcement agencies in impacted areas. In addition, Hyundai will provide two other options for owners of these earlier model year vehicles targeted by thieves.
Hyundai has released a glass break sensor security kit that targets the method of entry used by thieves to break into these vehicles. These kits are available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar authorized installers across the country. The MSRP for the kit is $170, and the estimated cost for installation may vary by location.
Hyundai is also developing a software update to further secure these targeted vehicles. We anticipate that this software update will become available for certain vehicles in the first half of 2023, with updates for other vehicles following thereafter.
Please note that all Hyundai vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Some earlier models, without a push-button ignition, do not have engine immobilizers. In November 2021, engine immobilizers became standard on all Hyundai vehicles produced.
Customers with questions can contact the Customer Care Center, 800-633-5151.
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