Stolen Kia/Hyundai Vehicles Lawsuit

You might have heard about a recent settlement in the millions involving theft due to a design defect in numerous Kia and Hyundai models. Plaintiffs in numerous states nationwide filed lawsuits against Hyundai and Kia for potential security issues in specific models with traditional metal key ignition systems.

If you want to learn more about the class action settlement and whether you qualify for compensation from the automakers, call Paul LLP Trial Attorneys at (816) 984-8100 immediately for a free consultation.

What Happened with Kia and Hyundai Vehicles?

In a class action lawsuit filed against automakers Kia and Hyundai, numerous plaintiffs claimed a defect allowed people to operate these vehicles without a key, which led to theft.

According to the filed lawsuits, the increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts was due to a social media trend on TikTok. The posts instructed viewers how to steal various makes and models with a USB charging cable and then challenged them to steal the vehicles. The decision to consolidate the case into a single class action was meant to force the automakers to address the problem and compensate owners who had their cars stolen.

Why Kia and Hyundai Vehicles Are Vulnerable to Theft

The ignition in the models that used a physical key slot instead of a push-button start system includes a USB interface. Thieves only have to strip away part of the steering column and access an exposed interface to start the vehicle by inserting any type of USB cable. According to court documents, this process takes only minimal effort and less than a minute.

A significant issue is that these Hyundai and Kia vehicles don’t have an anti-theft device. An immobilizer uses a chip to authenticate the key used in a car against the electronic control unit. Most modern cars contain an immobilizer, preventing vehicles from starting if the device doesn’t detect a key.

The lawsuit also alleges that some of the windows in the affected vehicles might not connect to the security system. That means breaking into them without triggering the alarm is possible. These vulnerabilities resulted in thieves targeting Kia and Hyundai models, especially after a viral trend on TikTok highlighted the defect in the security system.

How a Social Media Platform Caused Theft

Law enforcement connected the spike in Hyundai and Kia thefts to social media challenges posted on YouTube and TikTok. These posts pointed out security glitches in the cars. One particular video by a Milwaukee group called Kia Boyz showed viewers how to break into and steal these vehicles with a USB charging cable and screwdriver.

The theft problem was a significant issue in Milwaukee. There were over 10,000 reported thefts in 2021. That represented a 132% increase from the year before. Approximately 66% of the stolen vehicles were Kia or Hyundai models.

Police departments in other states throughout the country also reported a massive number of vehicular thefts, many involving Hyundai and Kia models.

Although the automakers acknowledged their vehicles were the target of theft due to social media posts, they did not issue a recall to address the security problem and try to prevent additional vehicles from being stolen.

Updates to Kia and Hyundai Software

Kia and Hyundai launched a campaign to change the software in the vehicles affected by the thefts. They announced changes such as software upgrades, more extended alarms, and warning stickers. They also contacted over a million customers, informing them of the software update, and shipped anti-theft steering wheel locks to hundreds of police departments to provide to those driving the vulnerable models.

The attorneys general in the affected states said the campaign is a promising effort but not enough to fix the issue. The companies responded slowly to the crisis and haven’t taken responsibility for the Kia and Hyundai vehicle owners and drivers who suffered.

In a letter, the attorneys general urged the automakers to do whatever they can to accelerate implementing the software upgrade and provide a free alternative to owners with cars that don’t support the upgrade.

Attorney General Josh Kaul from Wisconsin led the effort to promote change with attorneys general from other states, including:

  • Illinois
  • Arizona
  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • New York
  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland
  • South Dakota
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
  • Oregon
  • Connecticut
  • New Mexico
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oklahoma
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina

Kia and Hyundai owners also faced the threat of being unable to insure their cars. State Farm and Progressive dropped some of the older models because they don’t have anti-theft features.

Soaring Theft of Kia and Hyundai Around the Country

The attorneys general in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Buffalo, New York noticed rising rates of thefts among Kia and Hyundai vehicles. There were over 7,000 stolen Kia and Hyundai models in Chicago in 2022. The thefts accounted for 7% of all registered Hyundais and 10% of all registered Kias in the city.

The trend alerted the public to the imminent threat vehicle owners faced. In Washington, D.C., Hyundais and Kias accounted for 44% of all car thefts during the first several weeks of 2023. In Buffalo, the number of stolen Hyundai and Kia models increased from 400 in 2022 to 350 in the first two months of 2023.

After seeing those numbers, Senator Chuck Schumer decided to travel to Buffalo to request Hyundai and Kia to take immediate action. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison also launched a civil investigation to determine whether the automakers violated the state’s public nuisance and consumer protection laws.

In Minnesota in 2022, Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts had a connection to 13 shootings, 265 motor vehicle accidents, five homicides, and 36 robberies.

What to Expect from the Proposed Settlement

In May 2023, Kia and Hyundai settled the class action lawsuit with the plaintiffs. The automakers proposed a $200 million settlement to owners of Kia and Hyundai vehicles vulnerable to theft after these companies failed to install the necessary security measures.

The settlement includes these Kia and Hyundai models manufactured without an engine immobilizer and distributed in the United States, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam:

  • Hyundai Elantra Coupe 2010 to 2014
  • Hyundai Sonata 2011 to 2019
  • Hyundai Elantra GT 2013 to 2020
  • Kia Optima 2011 to 2020
  • Hyundai Elantra Touring 2011 to 2012
  • Hyundai Elantra 2011 to 2022
  • Kia Rio 2011 to 2021
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2013 to 2018
  • Hyundai Grand Santa Fe 2013 to 2019
  • Hyundai Kona 2018 to 2022
  • Hyundai Santa Fe 2019 to 2022
  • Kia Sorento 2011 to 2022
  • Kia Seltos 2021 to 2022
  • Hyundai Santa Fe XL 2013 to 2019
  • Hyundai Tucson 2010 to 2022
  • Hyundai Veloster 2011 to 2021
  • Hyundai Veracruz 2011 to 2012
  • Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2011 to 2014
  • Hyundai Accent 2011 to 2022
  • Kia Forte 2011 to 2021
  • Hyundai Venue 2020 to 2021
  • Kia K5 2021 to 2022
  • Kia Sedona 2011 to 2021
  • Kia Soul 2010 to 2022
  • Hyundai Palisade 2020 to 2021
  • Kia Sportage 2011 to 2022

The settlement also offers numerous benefits, such as:

  • Reimbursement to the affected vehicle owners for towing costs and other taxes and fees associated with vehicles to replace the stolen or lost models.
  • Up to $145 million in out-of-pocket losses. The tier of payments includes compensating for out-of-pocket expenses such as damage to personal property and vehicles up to $3,375, total loss of cars up to $6,125, insurance-related costs, and other expenses, including rideshare services, car rentals, taxi costs, and public transit payments not covered by car insurance.
  • Payments to affected individuals who suffered accidents or had their vehicles stolen and never recovered them. Also, coverage for red light tickets, speeding tickets, and other fines or penalties incurred from the stolen car.
  • Software upgrades at no cost to the owners of the affected vehicle models. The software upgrade addresses the lack of an immobilizer and aims to prevent starting these cars without the detection of a key.

The Hyundai and Kia vehicles eligible for the proposed software upgrade include:

  • 2014 to 2021 Kia Forte
  • 2018 to 2022 Kona
  • 2013 to 2022 Santa Fe
  • 2013 to 2018 Santa Fe Sport
  • 2020 to 2021 Palisade
  • 2019 Santa Fe XL
  • 2018 to 2022 Accent
  • 2021 to 2022 Kia Seltos
  • 2011 to 2019 Sonata
  • 2011 to 2022 Tucson
  • 2013 to 2014 Genesis Coupe
  • 2011 to 2022 Kia Sportage
  • 2011 to 2022 Kia Sorento
  • 2021 to 2022 Kia K5
  • 2020 to 2021 Venue
  • 2011 to 2021 Kia Sedona
  • 2012 to 2017 and 2019-2021 Veloster
  • 2012 to 2021 Kia Rio
  • 2011 to 2022 Elantra
  • 2013 to 2020 Elantra GT
  • 2011 to 2020 Kia Optima
  • 2020 to 2022 Kia Soul

Vehicle owners with models that can’t receive the software upgrade can receive payments instead. The settlement proposes reimbursement of up to $300 to purchase and install an anti-theft system or glass breakage alarm, steering wheel lock, or another aftermarket modification for preventing or deterring theft of these cars.

Hold the Liable Automakers Accountable with Help from Paul LLP Trial Attorneys

At Paul LLP Trial Attorneys, we understand the toll a stolen vehicle can take on a person’s finances and sense of personal security and safety. Kia and Hyundai should have taken the appropriate measures to protect the affected vehicles and address the defect promptly upon learning about it. Instead, they were slow to act and put countless individuals at risk of theft.

You do not have to face the automakers alone. We can assist you in taking legal action and recovering the compensation you deserve. Call Paul LLP Trial Attorneys at (816) 984-8100 today for your free consultation to learn more about what we can do for you if someone stole your Hyundai or Kia vehicle due to a defect in its security design.

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Rick Paul
Ashlea Schwarz