Kia and Hyundai have reached a settlement of approximately $200 million to resolve a class-action lawsuit alleging that their vehicles were exceptionally susceptible to theft. The payment, impacting about nine million vehicle owners, comes when the nation grapples with a surge in auto thefts, partly fueled by videos on platforms like TikTok and YouTube, demonstrating how easily Kia and Hyundai vehicles can be stolen.
Carmakers are being sued for not equipping certain models with immobilizers, which would have made it more difficult for thieves to steal the cars. The settlement money will be used to cover a variety of losses, including those who were not targeted by thieves and those whose cars were stolen and damaged.
Pending a federal judge’s approval, the settlement is estimated to be valued at approximately $200 million, depending on the participation of customers. In addition, the manufacturers stated that the agreement would allocate up to $145 million to cover owners’ out-of-pocket losses. In a joint statement, Hyundai and Kia announced they would reimburse owners for insurance deductibles, increased insurance premiums, and other theft-related expenses. Although the manufacturers operate independently, Hyundai is the parent company of Kia Motors.
Jason Erb of Hyundai Motor North America expressed appreciation for the opportunity to support owners affected by criminal activities targeting their vehicles, and John Yoon of Kia America referred to the settlement as the latest step in a series of actions, including free security software upgrades and the distribution of over 65,000 steering wheel locks.
In March, YouTube and TikTok announced the removal of several videos associated with the “Kia Challenge,” addressing concerns over these videos’ potential to aid theft.
The settlement will offer eligible vehicles a software upgrade to address the absence of an immobilizer. The Kia Sportage, Kia Sorento, and Kia Sedona are suitable models.
Lawyers for the vehicle owners stated that websites for the settlement would be made available soon.
The Highway Loss Data Institute report noted that Hyundai and Kia lagged behind other manufacturers in terms of installing passive immobilizers, which can help protect against basic theft. The law firm Hagens Berman has criticized the automakers for inadequately protecting against theft and has highlighted repair bills of around $10,000 that owners are sometimes left to bear.
The settlement represents a significant step toward addressing the vulnerability of Kia and Hyundai vehicles to theft, compensating owners for their losses, and encouraging enhanced security measures from the manufacturers moving forward.