Car Owners File Class Action Lawsuits Over Hyundai, Kia Thefts
In a recent class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Minnesota, a man claims that certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles were "defectively designed" without engine immobilizers, electronic devices meant to prevent theft by hot-wiring. This defect allows thieves to start the car by stripping the ignition column and inserting a USB drive, knife, or other small tools, according to Lead Plaintiff Steve Zanmiller, who previously owned a 2020 Kia Sportage.
Compounding the problem is the fact that some of the vehicles’ windows are not properly connected to their security systems, allowing the windows to be broken without triggering alarms, Zanmiller stated in the complaint.
Numerous other similar class action lawsuits have recently been filed against Hyundai and Kia (which are both owned by Hyundai Motor Company) in courts across the U.S. over their vehicles' lack of an engine immobilizer, including a two-plaintiff class-action suit in Iowa, a class-action in Wisconsin, and two class-action suits centering Ohio theft victims.
Plaintiffs assert claims including violation of consumer laws, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment. They seek remedies including damages and an order preventing Defendants from selling the defective vehicles and ordering them to fix or replace them.
Which Vehicles are Affected?
It’s still unclear exactly how long Hyundai and Kia have made vehicles without immobilizers; however, the proposed class action seeks to include owners of 2011-2021 Kias (models Optima, Soul, Sorento, Forte, and Sportage) and all 2016-2021 Hyundai vehicles that use a steel key, not a fob and push-button start.
Related Article: Kia Engine Immobilizer Lawsuit
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How Does an Engine Immobilizer Work?
The engine immobilizer is an anti-theft system built into the engine electronic control unit (ECU). The device prevents the engine from starting without using the vehicle’s authorized key. Instead, the immobilizer uses a unique digitally coded key or a Smart Key fob which contains a transponder chip. It stores the electronic security code or the vehicle’s password.
Why Were the Hyundai & Kia Vehicles Sold Without Engine Immobilizers?
The class action lawsuits against Hyundai allege that the company intentionally manufactured vehicles without engine immobilizers in order to save money. The anti-theft devices should be standard equipment in all modern vehicles, the suits contend.
How Do I Know if My Car Has an Immobilizer?
There are a few things that can assist you in figuring out whether your Hyundai or Kia vehicle has an immobilizer or not. First, you can read your car's handbook to see if it has a factory-installed immobilizer. This manual should contain all the information on your vehicle, including whether or not it is equipped with an immobilizer.
If you purchased a used vehicle, it's possible that the immobilizer was disabled or removed by a former owner. If, on the other hand, your automobile is used, the previous owner may have installed a new or replacement immobilizer. So, even if the manufacturer didn't install it, the car could still contain an immobilizer.
Progressive Won't Insure Some Hyundais, Kias Because They're Easy to Steal
Due to the large number of Hyundai and Kia thefts, the Progressive Corporation has declined to offer coverage to customers who own vehicles not equipped with engine immobilizers. Customers who request a quote are told that based on the vehicle information they provided, Progressive cannot offer a policy at that time.
What Should I Do if I Own a Defective Hyundai or Kia?
Beginning in October 2022, Hyundai customers who want to protect their vehicle may purchase a specialized security kit that targets the method of entry thieves are using, Hyundai said in a statement.
Kia says it is not offering a security kit at this time. If you own one of the affected Kia vehicles, you may want to consider purchasing a wheel lock or "Club" device to protect your car.
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