Democratic Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson announced Thursday that the city had sued Kia and Hyundai for contributing to violent crimes in Chicago by failing to use anti-theft technology in their vehicles, according to a city press release.
The lawsuit alleges that the two companies did not provide engine immobilizers or steering wheel locks, technologies that would make hotwiring the cars much more difficult, according to the press release.
Kia and Hyundai vehicles accounted for 54.3% of all stolen vehicles in Chicago in July 2023 and were used for armed robberies and violent crimes, the lawsuit claimed.
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“Unlike the movies, hot-wiring vehicles is far harder than it appears — unless that vehicle was manufactured by Hyundai or Kia,” the lawsuit said. “Kia’s and Hyundai’s unlawful and reckless actions have caused a car theft crisis.”
Thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles increased across the nation after trending TikTok videos showed viewers how to hotwire the vehicles using a USB cable, CNBC reported. Chicago vehicle theft rates rose by 767% in 2022 because of this TikTok “challenge,” according to Fox News.
Kia and Hyundai both offered free steering wheel locks in 2022 to areas impacted by the theft, which included Chicago, CNBC reported. Both companies also announced in February that they would provide free anti-theft software updates and steering wheel locks for all of their vehicles that did not have immobilizers, according to a press release by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Agency.
“Kia continues to take action to help our customers by making it more difficult for criminals to use methods of theft recently popularized on social media to steal certain vehicle models,” Kia said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Lawsuits filed by municipalities against Kia are without merit. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that this issue does not constitute a safety defect or non-compliance with applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 114 that governs theft protection measures.”
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The city of Chicago claimed that these preventative measures did little to combat the thefts because the updates required car owners to lock their cars, according to the lawsuit.
“These band-aid solutions are too little, too late,” the lawsuit alleged. “Hyundai notes that for its update to work, the consumer must lock their door with their key or the key fob button in order to set the factory alarm and activate the software’s ‘ignition kill’ feature.”
Chicago demanded that Kia and Hyundai pay money for every damage caused by their stolen vehicles on the grounds that the companies had provided “services reasonably related to” criminals’ “violation of any federal, state, or local law,” according to the lawsuit.
Motor vehicle theft in Chicago is currently up 223% from 2021, while overall crime is up 82%, according to a report released by the Chicago Police Department.
Hyundai and the city of Chicago did not immediately respond to DCNF’s request for comment.
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