In our neck of the woods (New Jersey), car thefts are on the rise, according to officials. But a new proposed class action says that certain vehicles, no matter where you live, may be a little easier to steal thanks to a defect.
The 33-page case out of Iowa alleges all 2011-2021 Hyundai and Kia vehicles are “easy to steal,” unsafe, and worth less than what drivers paid due to a vulnerability plaguing the cars’ ignition system.
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According to the complaint, 2011-2021 Hyundai and Kia vehicles were manufactured and designed without “engine immobilizers,” an electronic security device that “makes it more difficult to start a vehicle without a key.”
As the lawsuit tells it, all a car thief needs to do to steal one of the Hyundais or Kias at issue is to “strip the ignition column … then stick a USB drive, a knife or some other similar tool to start the vehicle without a key or code.” Once that happens, a stolen car can be operated freely, the suit says.
News reports relay that a “trend” on social media has contributed to the rise in stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles, including in Florida.
The lawsuit alleges Hyundai and Kia knew that every 2011 through 2021 model was “defective in this manner” yet neglected to disclose the problem to drivers. Per the case, the automakers were well equipped to add an engine immobilizer or similar device to the cars, yet failed to do so despite knowing “just how dangerous it was” to be without the critical theft-prevention measure.
Even now, Defendants admit there is a theft and safety problem with these vehicles but refuse to fix them, compensate consumers, or otherwise take actions to solve the problems their Defective Vehicles are causing.”
Media reports share that the Hyundai and Kia theft problem has gotten so bad that some cities, including Milwaukee, have asked the automakers to step in and do something, only to be met with silence. Those same reports say that the uptick in Hyundai and Kia thefts has left dealers struggling to keep in stock replacement parts, such as lock cylinders, to fix vehicles that have been recovered.
Affected Hyundai and Kias do not comply with federal standards, suit says
According to the filing, a certain Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard dictates that vehicles must be equipped with a starting system that prevents the activation of the engine and either steering, forward mobility, or both, whenever a car’s key is removed. The purpose of the law is to decrease the likelihood that a vehicle will be stolen or accidentally set in motion, and the statute applies to all passenger cars, trucks and multipurpose passenger vehicles in the country.
Unfortunately for drivers, the Hyundai and Kia vehicles at issue fail to meet this requirement, the case alleges.
Additionally, and possibly compounding matters, is that the windows in some of the Hyundai and Kia models are not connected to the cars’ security system, which can allow a thief to break the window without triggering the alarm, the case alleges.
The lawsuit ultimately contends that 2011-2021 Hyundai and Kia vehicles are neither safe nor reliable and are instead “unreasonably dangerous” due to the apparent ease with which they can be stolen. The automakers are accused of falsely touting the cars as fit for their normal and intended use, despite the fact that they lacked engine immobilizers at the time of sale.
Who does the Hyundai/Kia class action look to cover?
The case looks to cover consumers who purchased any 2011-2021 Hyundai or Kia vehicle in the United States within the last five years, as well as all consumers who own any of those vehicles.
The plaintiffs seek reimbursement for some of the money paid for the “defective” Hyundai and Kia vehicles, as well as for the cost of purchasing the “club” steering wheel lock or other similar theft-prevention devices. The suit also looks to recover damages for increases in insurance premiums that may be incurred due to the theft problem and “the stigma associated with the Defective Vehicles.”
I drive one of these cars. How do I get involved in the case?
Class action suits that do move on generally take time to work their way through the legal process, typically on their way to a settlement, dismissal or arbitration. This means that it might be a while before Hyundai and Kia drivers need to do anything, if that time comes at all.