Kia and Hyundai TikTok challenge lawsuit
ST. LOUIS –
A federal lawsuit brought by the city of St. Louis filed Monday accusing automakers Kia and Hyundai of failing to install industry-standard anti-theft technology, leading to thousands of vehicle thefts in Missouri City.
The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 plus compensatory damages. Louis joins several other cities that have filed similar lawsuits, including Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego, Columbus, Ohio and Seattle.
Kias and Hyundais have been targeted since a TikTok social media challenge highlighted vehicles without immobilizers, teaching viewers how to wire car heaters with a USB cord and screwdriver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says burglaries have resulted in at least 14 crashes and eight deaths across the US.
“The defendants’ careless disregard for public safety has created a public nuisance in the City of St. Louis, resulting in an explosion of car-related crime that is causing injuries. citizens, taxing St. Louis’ resources and endangering the public health, safety, and peace of all those who live, work, and visit St. Louis,” the lawsuit states.
Kia said in a statement that the St. Louis and other cities are “unfounded.”
“Kia has been and continues to be willing to work with law enforcement in St. Louis to combat vehicle theft and the role social media plays in encouraging it,” the company said.
Hyundai Motor America is “committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products,” the company said in a statement.
Police of St. Louis received more than 4,500 reports of thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in the past 10 months, and three-fifths of all vehicle thefts during that period involved Kia or Hyundai, the city said.
The lawsuit cites several incidents involving stolen Kias and Hyundais. In August, owners of a stolen Kia Optima and a stolen Hyundai Sonata were involved in a shooting near downtown in which a 17-year-old was shot. In September, a cyclist was killed by a stolen Kia speeding.
Last month, both automakers rolled out software updates aimed at preventing a series of thefts. Free updates for millions of vehicles that lack key anti-theft devices. The software updates the burglar alarm software logic to extend the duration of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute and requires the key located in the ignition switch to start the vehicle.
NHTSA said about 3.8 million Hyundai and 4.5 million Kia vehicles are eligible for the software update.
In addition to the software update, Kia says it is shipping more than 27,000 free steering wheel keys to more than 140 law enforcement agencies, including nearly 1,500 to police in the St. Louis, “and we will continue to provide more free keys as needed.”
Hyundai says engine immobilizers will become standard on all vehicles by November 2021. The company says it also provides free steering wheel locks for law enforcement agencies to distribute. to those who own or rent affected vehicle models, and refund customers who purchased steering wheel locks.