Police targeted in cities following lawsuits filed by San Diego and other cities over Hyundai and Kia thefts

Kia Niro Hybrid. Photography by Chris Stone

Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia have asked a US judge to dismiss lawsuits brought by 17 cities – including San Diego – for failing to install anti-theft technology in millions of their vehicles.

The lawsuits follow thousands of Hyundai and Kia thefts using a method popular on TikTok and other social media channels.

In addition to San Diego, the cities suing Kia and Hyundai include New York, Seattle, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Columbus.

The automakers, controlled by the same group, said in a lawsuit that they should not be held liable for thefts “resulting from an unprecedented criminal phenomenon on social media.”

They claim that cities’ “lax policing and prosecution policies” and “budgetary decisions that diverted public safety resources away from preventing and disrupting car theft and reckless driving” were more important than the failure of Hyundai or Kia to equip vehicles with counterterrorism tools. Theft deterrents.

In February, automakers said they would offer software upgrades to 8.3 million American vehicles to help reduce thefts.

TikTok and other videos have spread on social media across the country showing how to steal Kia and Hyundai cars without starting them with the push of a button and immobilizing anti-theft devices.

This led to carjackings that resulted in at least 14 crashes and eight vehicle deaths, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in February.

Immobilizers were standard on 96% of U.S. vehicles by 2015, but were standard on only 26% of 2015 model year Hyundai and Kia vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Highway Loss Database.

Automakers note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not require immobilizers, unlike some other states.

Kia and Hyundai vehicles account for a large share of stolen vehicles in many U.S. cities, according to data from police and state officials. Many Hyundai and Kia vehicles do not have electronic immobilizers, which prevent break-in and ignition bypass.

In May, automakers agreed to settle a $200 million consumer class action lawsuit over rampant theft of their cars. The judge denied initial approval, but the companies will address concerns later this month.

(David Shepardson reports. Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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