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New York City Takes Legal Action against Hyundai, Kia

FILE - A line of 2022 Santa Fe SUV's sit outside a Hyundai dealership Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
FILE - A line of 2022 Santa Fe SUV's sit outside a Hyundai dealership Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
New York City Takes Legal Action against Hyundai and Kia
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New York City is taking legal action against the carmakers Hyundai and Kia. City officials say some of the companies’ vehicles have a design problem that makes them easier to steal.

The car models in the case lack equipment called engine immobilizers. These devices prevent the engine from starting unless the key is present. Such devices have been used on most cars since the 1990s.

But videos on TikTok and other sites show how to start the cars using only USB cables and a common tool called a screwdriver.

New York government lawyers say that Hyundai Motor America and Kia America Inc. failed to keep up with other automakers by not using immobilizer technology.

“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 says the vehicle thefts are putting pressure on its police department’s resources and harming 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. Around 415 Hyundais were reported stolen in 2022, compared with 232 a year earlier.

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.

Other major cities in Maryland, Ohio, Wisconsin and other states have filed similar legal complaints after large increases in car thefts.

New York City is requesting an order for abatement of the problem. It also requests that the court order Hyundai and Kia to pay for economic losses suffered by the city as a result of the problem.

Hyundai says it is committed to ensuring the quality and soundness of its products.

In a written statement, the automaker said that a small group of basic, low cost Hyundai cars on the road in the U.S. today “are not equipped with push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices.”

The statement added, “It is important to clarify that an engine immobilizer is an anti-theft device and these vehicles are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements."

All Hyundai cars made from November 2021 onward have engine immobilizers.

The company also said that it’s speaking with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the actions it is taking to assist its customers.

Kia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Last month Hyundai and Kia reached a settlement to end a lawsuit prompted by an increase in vehicle thefts.

The settlement could be valued at $200 million and covers about 9 million 2011-2022 model year Hyundai and Kia vehicles in the U.S., the companies said at the time.

The settlement will provide payment to customers who suffered theft-related losses or damage not covered by insurance — as well as payments for insurance deductibles, increased insurance prices and other losses, Kia and Hyundai said.

A software improvement will also be provided to some owners. For customers with vehicles that cannot use the software upgrade, the agreement will provide a payment of up to $300 for anti-theft devices.

Kia and Hyundai have also given affected customers tens of thousands of free steering wheel locks through local law enforcement and direct shipments, the companies said.

A court is expected to consider that proposed settlement starting in July.

I’m John Russell.

Michelle Chapman reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

screwdriver – n. a tool that is used for turning screws

forego – v. to give up the use of (something)

compliant – adj. agreeing with a set of rules or requirements

deductible – n. an amount of money that you have to pay before an insurance company pays for the remainder of the cost