Seattle Sues Kia and Hyundai over Increased Car Thefts

(The Center Square) Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison has filed a lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai for their alleged role in an exponential increase of car theft in Seattle and other regions.

Davison’s office claims that the two car companies’ failure to install anti-theft technology has contributed to an increase of their car models being stolen in Seattle and across the region.

In the last two years, thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars increased by 363% and 503% in Seattle, according to the lawsuit. The Seattle Police Department reported a 620% increase in reports of stolen Hyundais and Kias in July, 2022 over the previous July. 

Davison added that Kia and Hyundai are aware of the public safety concerns arising from the huge spike in theft of their vehicles, but “they have not taken meaningful steps to address the problem.”

“Kia and Hyundai chose to cut corners and cut costs at the expense of their customers and the public,” Davison said in a statement. “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.”

Videos posted on social media showed how to steal Kia car models simply by removing a plastic piece under the steering wheel and using a USB cord and turning it like a key.

Since more people know how to steal Kia and Hyundai cars, the number of reported thefts of Hyundais and Kias went from 48 in August to 197 in December last year, according to Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz.

Hyundai Super Group Manager Ira Gabriel told The Center Square in an email that the company found the lawsuit “improper and unnecessary.” Gabriel added that in response to an increase of thefts targeting Hyundai 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.  

Engine immobilizers are anti-theft systems. The car only starts by an electronic code transmitted by a smart key fob that matches the code of the vehicle or if it is turned into the ignition switch.

“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,” Gabriel added. “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.” 

Kia said it was concerned that criminal actors are targeting certain Kia cars. The statement added that all 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change.

Vehicle thefts of unprotected Kia and Hyundai models occur predominantly in the Seattle neighborhoods of Northgate, Capitol Hill, Central District and Beacon Hill, according to the City Attorney’s Office.