July 19, 2023

Indianapolis joins national lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai over auto thefts

The lawsuit Indianapolis has joined includes claims on behalf of several other cities. It asks for a jury trial and seeks reimbursements for the public safety costs associated with the thefts.  - Katrina Pross/WFYI News

The lawsuit Indianapolis has joined includes claims on behalf of several other cities. It asks for a jury trial and seeks reimbursements for the public safety costs associated with the thefts.

Katrina Pross/WFYI News

The City of Indianapolis is joining a national lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai in response to widespread vehicle thefts.

The lawsuit alleges that certain models of the cars lack the industry-standard technology needed to prevent the vehicles from being stolen. Videos that show people how to steal Kias and Hyundais have recently gone viral over social media.

“In many cases, thieves use tools no more advanced than a USB cable,” the lawsuit reads. “Hyundai's and Kia's business decisions to reduce costs, and thereby boost profits, by foregoing common anti-theft technology have resulted in an epidemic of thefts.”

The lawsuit Indianapolis has joined includes claims on behalf of several other cities, including Milwaukee, New York City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis and Seattle. The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and seeks reimbursements for the public safety costs associated with the thefts.

“Indianapolis is joining in a multi-state lawsuit to hold these manufacturers accountable for the costs it has imposed on our law enforcement, emergency responders and our broader community,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said. “Simply put, when a company puts profits over safety, we all are impacted.”

From Jan. 1 through July 17 in 2022, 99 Kia vehicles were reported stolen. In the same time period this year, that number surged to 513 thefts – an increase of more than 400 percent. Hyundai thefts have grown from 95 to 331 in that same time period – an almost 250 percent increase. The thefts of the two carmakers account for more than 25 percent of all cars stolen in Indianapolis this year.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Deputy Chief Kendale Adams said the department is moving another detective into the auto theft unit to focus specifically on Kia and Hyundai thefts.

“It’s frustrating for us because we'd like to focus on violent crime and we'd like to continue to drive down shootings and violence and to have to pivot to do this, it’s frustrating,” Adams said.

Adams said IMPD recommends people who own certain Kia and Hyundai models to take measures such as parking their cars in well-lit areas and installing an anti-theft alarm system.

Hyundai said in a statement that the automaker is working to increase installations of anti-theft software in its vehicles.

In a statement, Kia said that “the lawsuits filed by municipalities against Kia are without merit”, and underlined the development of a free security software upgrade for customers and the distribution of steering wheel locks.

Contact WFYI criminal justice reporter Katrina Pross at kpross@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @katrina_pross.

Pross is a Corps Member of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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