ST. LOUIS — Hyundais and Kia owners who are watching cars like theirs get stolen at alarming rates are taking the automakers to court, saying defective ignition systems on some models are to blame.
Car owners in Wisconsin filed suit in June 2021.
Just days ago, Kia and Hyundai owners in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Texas also filed class action lawsuits.
Locally, thefts of some models of Hyundais and Kias are soaring.
St. Louis Police say in July alone, 1,000 cars were reported stolen – 301 were Hyundais and 333 were Kias.
That’s about two-thirds of every car stolen in July.
Police say thieves are using USB cords to start the engines on some models that are not equipped with immobilizing technology after breaking windows not connected to the car’s security systems.
Police say some Kia models built between 2011-2021 and some Hyundai models built in 2015-2021 are affected.
The automakers have sent statements to the I-Team, saying immobilizing technology is going to be standard on all new vehicles.
Court filings reveal what the automakers are saying for themselves in court.
They note their cars did not make the National Insurance Crime Bureau's list of the top 10 most stolen cars in 2021, and say vehicle theft is a consumer risk – not one they are required to warn owners about after a vehicle’s sale.
Attorneys for the automakers also argued the vehicles are not defective.
"Warranties do not cover situations in which a vehicle owner or lessee simply prefers an alternative material or an alternative design, as a different preference is not a defect. The so-called defect at issue here — the possibility of theft — is simply not covered by either Kia or Hyundai’s express warranty," according to the filing. “Plaintiffs pay lip service to the word ‘defect.’ Their complaint, at base, is simply that they would have preferred an alternative security system for their vehicles, given to them for free, without having to purchase it as an optional upgrade.”
It continued: “The fact that plaintiffs have identified alternative security methods hardly shows that Kia and Hyundai’s methods rendered their vehicles defective products any allegations that their vehicles’ security systems failed to live up to their expectations is not sufficient to allege a defect.”
Kia and Hyundai would not answer any of the I-Team’s questions, but sent these statements.
Kia wrote: “Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of certain trim level vehicles in the St. Louis area. As of the current 2022 Model Year, all Kia vehicles have an engine immobilizer fitted as standard. All Kia vehicles for sale in the U.S. meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.”
Hyundai wrote: “Hyundai Motor America is concerned with the rise in local auto thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority. These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles.”
St. Louis Police Capt. Janice Bockstruck said she’s pleased to hear newer models will be equipped with engine immobilizers, but added the move doesn’t do much to alleviate the problems for current owners or anyone who might encounter one of the stolen cars speeding through the streets.
She said her department is trying to work with local dealerships to get Clubs to car owners.
“It hasn’t come to fruition yet,” she said of the effort.
In addition to the statements, Kia and Hyundai consumers can call the following numbers for more information.
1 (800) 333-4542
1 (800) 633-5151