Wisconsin city looks to sue Kia, Hyundai over surge in vehicle thefts
Madison becomes latest city pursuing damages from automakers
Madison, Wisconsin, has become the latest U.S. city to announce that it is considering taking legal action against South Korean automakers Kia and Hyundai over a surge in thefts of the sister companies' models.
Officials in Madison will vote this week to move forward with a federal lawsuit against the car manufacturers for failing to install sufficient anti-theft technology in millions of vehicles after a social media challenge exposed their vulnerability and led to a spike in stolen cars – and costs for municipalities to fight the rise in crime.
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The city said in a press release that in the summer of 2022, thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in Madison soared by 270% from the summer before and accounted for more than half the total vehicle thefts in the city between July and August.
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"These are not just numbers – they represent Madison residents who have had their vehicles stolen and lives disrupted; police officers taken away from their regular duties; and bystanders put in danger by the reckless driving that often accompanied these thefts," Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a statement.
The mayor said the rise in stolen Kias and Hyundais has "taxed City resources, while putting City staff, residents and infrastructure in danger because of the manufacturer's failure to install industry standard anti-theft technology in their vehicles."
Several cities sounded the alarm last year over thefts of the vehicles after videos on TikTok demonstrated how the ignition systems in mainly 2011-2012 Kias and 2015-2021 Hyundais with physical keys could be easily hacked using a screwdriver, pliers or the end of a USB cable because the vehicles are not equipped with immobilizers that require the presence of a key fob with a transponder to work.
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Officials in St. Louis announced last summer they were planning to sue the manufacturers over the alleged defects, and Columbus, Ohio, threatened to file suit in the fall.
Last month, Kia and Hyundai both announced they were rolling out new anti-theft software upgrades for the impacted models in an effort to curb their thefts.
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"Owner satisfaction and confidence is paramount at Kia and we have been working hard with our engineers to develop this software update," a spokesperson told FOX Business in a statement at the time. "Now we look to owners to schedule a short visit to their dealer for the process and help make a big impact on this unfortunate crime wave."