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Lawsuit against Hyundai, Kia after security flaw leads to wave of social media-fuelled theft in US

AP – New York City, United States (US) has filed a lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia, joining a host of other cities beset by a social media-fuelled wave of car thefts due to a flaw that made some car models highly susceptible to theft. Viral how-to videos on TikTok and other sites show how to start the cars using only USB cables and a screwdriver.

The reason is that some models sold by Hyundai and Kia in the US came without engine immobilisers, a standard feature on most cars since the 1990s that prevent the engine from starting unless the key is present.

The lawsuit, which was filed with the US District Court in the Southern District of New York late on Tuesday, alleges that Hyundai Motor America and Kia America Inc failed to keep up with other automakers by not adopting immobiliser technology that ensured cars could not be started without their keys.

“Hyundai’s and Kia’s business decisions to reduce costs, and thereby boost profits, by foregoing common anti-theft technology have resulted in an epidemic of thefts,” the lawsuit states. The city claims the vehicle thefts are straining the resources of its police department, as well as negatively impacting public safety and emergency services.

The New York City police department reports that about 287 Kias were stolen last year, compared with approximately 119 in 2021.

A line of 2022 Santa Fe SUV’s sit outside a Hyundai dealership in Littleton, Colorado, United States. PHOTO: AP

Approximately 415 Hyundais were reported stolen in 2022, compared with 232 a year earlier.

And the problem has continued, with an estimated 977 Hyundai and Kia vehicles reported stolen in the first four months of this year.

There were only 148 such thefts in the same months last year. New York, the nation’s biggest city by population, joins a growing list of cities going after the carmakers following a raft of thefts, including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego and Seattle.

New York City, which is seeking a trial by jury, is requesting an order providing for abatement of the public nuisance Hyundai and Kia have created or contributed to, compensation for the economic losses suffered as a result of the nuisance and injunctive relief.

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