An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:

Cities across the country are suing Kia and Hyundai for failing to install basic anti-theft technology, with a subsequent massive surge of stolen cars burdening police departments, according to lawsuits filed in recent months. Since the beginning of the year, Seattle, Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Columbus have all sued Kia and Hyundai, which are owned by the same parent company, for selling cars without engine immobilizers, a technology that has served as a major contributor to the plummeting rate of stolen vehicles in the U.S. As the rest of the industry adopted immobilizers, Kia and Hyundai didn’t, with only 26 percent of their cars including them in 2015, compared to 96 percent for other manufacturers.

Without the immobilizers, the cars are trivially easy to steal, requiring just a USB cable. A viral Youtube and Tiktok trend instructed people how to steal the cars. Kia and Hyundai cars manufactured without the immobilizers between 2015 and 2020, especially lower-end models like the Accent, Rio, and Sportage, are especially vulnerable. A lawsuit filed by dozens of insurance companies against Kia and Hyundai allege the lack of immobilizers violated federal regulations. The surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts in cities around the country has been staggering and it shows no sign of abating. In a lawsuit filed last week, the City of Chicago said that in 2022, more than 8,800 Kia and Hyundai vehicles were stolen in the city, which accounts for 41 percent of all of Chicago’s car thefts, despite Kia and Hyundai making up just seven percent of the city’s vehicles. In a press release announcing the lawsuit, the city said it is getting even worse in 2023, with Kias and Hyundais making up more than half of all stolen cars in the city this year. Chicago is hardly alone. […]

In statements to Motherboard, Kia spokesperson James Bell said the lawsuits filed by cities against the company are “without merit” and that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined it did not violate any regulations or safety standards. In June, NHTSA’s acting associate director of enforcement Cem Hatipoglu responded to 18 state attorneys general that asked for a recall of the cars by saying, “At this time, NHTSA has not determined that this issue constitutes either a safety defect or noncompliance requiring a recall.” A NHTSA spokesperson told Motherboard the agency has been meeting with Kia and Hyundai about the issue but wouldn’t say if it agreed with Kia’s interpretation. Hyundai spokesperson Ira Gabriel similarly said that all its vehicles are “fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements.” Hyundai and Kia owners can get steering wheel locks from their local police departments or through dedicated websites. Both companies also offer a free software patch that they say removes the threat of theft, which requires visiting a dealer. Bell of Kia says the company has distributed more than 190,000 wheel locks and that 650,000 vehicles have gotten the software update, out of three million total. Both companies now include immobilizers on all their new cars.


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