Fort Wayne files lawsuit against Hyundai, Kia after 289% increase in thefts in 2022

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The city of Fort Wayne has joined a host of other cities from around the country suing the manufacturers of Hyundai and Kia vehicles, alleging the companies have neglected anti-theft technology and in turn created a public safety problem.

The lawsuit — City of Fort Wayne, Indiana v. Hyundai Motor Company, Hyundai Motor America, Kia Corporation, and Kia America, Inc., 8:23-cv-01999 — was filed Oct. 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Hyundai and Kia are headquartered in California.

Like lawsuits that have been filed by other cities — including Indianapolis in June — Fort Wayne’s complaint alleges that for model years between 2011 and 2022, the two companies “intentionally ignored industry-standard practices in the name of profit” by not adopting immobilizer technology that ensures a car can’t be started without keys.

The result: Fort Wayne saw a 289% increase in Hyundai and Kia thefts in 2022, the complaint says.

And the numbers look worse for 2023. From January to September, there were already 47% more thefts than all of 2022, the complaint says.

“Vehicle theft is not only a property crime affecting vehicle owners, but it also constitutes a grave threat to public safety,” the lawsuit says. “Vehicle theft goes hand in hand with reckless driving, which in turn can result in injuries and/or death. It can result in increased violence, as many car owners are unlikely to part with their vehicles willingly. It also consumes law enforcement and emergency resources and deprives the public of safe streets and sidewalks.”

Other cities that have filed lawsuits include St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Milwaukee.

In May, the automakers agreed to a $200 million settlement in a consumer class-action lawsuit that included about 9 million vehicles. The settlement also included a commitment to the software update.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Kia said the company is encouraging eligible customers to get an anti-theft software upgrade it rolled out earlier this year. The statement says more than 850,000 vehicles have received the update.

But the lawsuit, the statement says, is “without merit.”

“Like all Kia vehicles, the specific models at issue in this case are subject to and comply fully with the requirements outlined in applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 114 that governs theft protection measures,” the statement says.

Indiana Lawyer has also reached out to Hyundai for comment.

Following the lawsuit filed by Indianapolis, a spokesperson for Hyundai said the company would “soon” pilot a mobile service center to speed up installation of anti-theft software.

“We remain committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products, all of which are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements,” the statement said. “Engine immobilizers are now standard on all Hyundai vehicles produced as of November 2021.”

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