COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Kia and Hyundai-modeled vehicles have accounted for nearly two-thirds of all car theft attempts in Columbus so far this year, and City Attorney Zach Klein has had enough.
The city attorney’s office announced its intent to “file a lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai automakers for their failure to include industry-standard anti-theft technology in vehicles that has led to soaring levels of Columbus,” according to a release. In 2022 there have been an average of 17 Kia and Hyundai thefts per day in Columbus, a 450 percent increase from last year.
“Kia and Hyundai’s negligence in pursuit of corporate profit is unconscionable,” Klein said. “It’s time we held these automakers accountable for cheating consumers and passing the buck and responsibility to clean up the mess they made onto the rest of us.”
The City of Columbus contends that the influx of Kia and Hyundai thefts due to substandard security features in their vehicles have cost consumers, insurance companies, local governments and law enforcement millions of dollars over the past year alone. In addition, the city believes deficiencies in these vehicles have caused additional harm including a number of juveniles being seriously injured or killed during joyrides after stealing the vehicles with tools as simple as a screwdriver and USB cable.
According to the city attorney's release, Kia and Hyundai manufactured cars without engine immobilizers or other security features, such as reinforced steering columns and sensors designed to detect when a car's window is broken. Many of these features come standard on nearly every other consumer vehicle manufactured during the same timeframe.
When NBC4 reached out to a Hyundai spokesperson for comment about the lawsuit, they gave a word-for-word, identical statement to one from October when Hyundai began selling $170 glass break sensor kits for its theft-prone older models. The statement included that Hyundai owners may have to also pay an installation fee depending on where they go to buy the kit. The car company also said it was working on a security software update for the older models, which it expected to roll out in early 2023.
Kia's Head of Corporate Communications, James Bell, also included an identical statement from August that the company's 2022 cars have added immobilizers to prevent thefts. However, he added a few additional comments that weren't specific to the Columbus lawsuit.
"Such criminal conduct endangers our local communities and violates property rights," Bell said. "Kia ... continues its efforts to develop additional solutions for vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer, including the development and testing of enhanced security software."
The city plans to seek an injunction to cease the further sale of unsafe vehicles and require Kia and Hyundai to recall, repair or replace the unsafe vehicles that have previously been sold. Klein said he intends to file the lawsuit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in the coming weeks, pending approval from the city council in Monday's meeting.