Automakers Hyundai and Kia are being sued by the city of San Diego for allegedly failing to equip their vehicles with sufficient anti-theft technology that the city alleges to have contributed to vehicles being “dangerously and unreasonably susceptible to theft".
According to San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott’s office, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of the People of the State of California, covers the period 2011 through 2021, during which, it alleges, the two companies were a “glaring exception” to industry norms by manufacturing vehicles that could be stolen with “relative ease” using “tools no more advanced than a USB cable.”
The lawsuit alleges that the automakers are “nearly unique” for their failure to adopt immobilizer technology that ensures car ignition cannot be started without their keys. There are viral videos on social media demonstrating the relative ease the which vehicles could be stolen.
“Making sure cars are not easy to steal keeps dangerous drivers in stolen vehicles off the road,” City Attorney Mara W. Elliott said. “Hyundai’s and Kia’s decisions to put cost savings and profits over public safety has had significant consequences for San Diego and its residents, leading to a substantial increase in vehicle thefts, reckless driving, related crime sprees, and public harm.”
In the first six months of 2022, the San Diego Police Department's 146 Hyundai and Kia cars were stolen in the city, according to the City Attorney’s Office. In the last six months of 2022, that number more than doubled to 369.
The City Attorney’s office added that drivers of stolen Kias and Hundais compromised public safety several times throughout San Diego County. The lawsuit alleges that car thefts consume scarce law enforcement and emergency resources, deprive the public of safe streets and sidewalks, and increase violence when would-be thieves are confronted
On May 23, 2022, a man stole a Kia Optima and led police on a pursuit from Chula Vista to Buena Park in Orange County, striking a police vehicle while fleeing and stopping only after driving over a spike strip and being apprehended with the help of a K-9 unit. On October 22, 2022, five juveniles driving a stolen Kia Forte in Chula Vista crashed into a fire hydrant and fled on foot, leaving behind a wrecked car and a path of destruction.
Those are just two incidents out of several listed by the San Diego City Attorney’s office.
The lawsuit alleges that the company's conduct created a public nuisance that could have been avoided had they followed industry-wide standards and installed immobilizers at a cost of roughly $200 per vehicle.
The lawsuit filed by the City of San Diego comes after a new report shows car thefts nationwide are surging, topping one million last year. Both Kia and Hyundai are facing federal lawsuits for failing to install adequate anti-theft technology in certain models.
The Hyundai website says, “In response to increasing thefts targeting Hyundai vehicles without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices, we are introducing a free anti-theft software upgrade for affected customers.