St. Louis sues Kia, Hyundai over rash of car thefts

Mar 27, 2023, 12:55 PM

FILE - A Kia that was damaged after being stolen sits at an auto repair shop in Milwaukee on Jan. 2...

FILE - A Kia that was damaged after being stolen sits at an auto repair shop in Milwaukee on Jan. 27, 2021. The city of St. Louis filed a federal lawsuit Monday, March 27, 2023, against Kia and Hyundai, accusing the automakers of failing to install industry-standard anti-theft technology, resulting in thousands of thefts of vehicles in the Missouri city. (Angela Peterson/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)

(Angela Peterson/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal lawsuit filed Monday by the city of St. Louis accuses automakers Kia and Hyundai of failing to install industry-standard anti-theft technology, resulting in thousands of vehicle thefts in the Missouri city.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 plus punitive damages. St. Louis joins several other cities that have filed similar lawsuits, including Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego, Columbus, Ohio, and Seattle.

Kias and Hyundais have been targeted since a TikTok social media challenge put a spotlight on the vehicles’ lack of an immobilizer, showing viewers how to hot-wire cars with a USB cord and a screwdriver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the thefts have resulted in at least 14 crashes and eight fatalities across the U.S.

“Defendants’ careless disregard for the safety of the public has created a public nuisance in the City of St. Louis, resulting in an explosion of auto-related crime that is injuring citizens, taxing St. Louis’s resources, and jeopardizing the public health, safety, and peace of all who live, work, and visit St. Louis,” the lawsuit states.

Kia said in a statement that the lawsuits by St. Louis and other cities are “without merit.”

“Kia has been and continues to be willing to work cooperatively with law enforcement agencies in St. Louis to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it,” the company said.

Hyundai Motor America “is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products,” the company said in a statement.

St. Louis police have received more than 4,500 reports of thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles over the past 10 months, and three-fifths of all vehicle thefts in that span have involved Kias or Hyundais, the city said.

The lawsuit cited several incidents involving stolen Kias and Hyundais. In August, occupants of a stolen Kia Optima and a stolen Hyundai Sonata were involved in a shootout near downtown in which a 17-year-old was shot. In September, a bicyclist was struck and killed by a speeding Kia that had been stolen.

Last month, both automakers rolled out software updates aimed at stemming the raft of thefts. The updates are free for millions of vehicles that are missing a key anti-theft device. The software updates the theft alarm software logic to extend the length of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute and requires the key to be in the ignition switch to turn the vehicle on.

About 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias are eligible for the software update, the NHTSA said.

In addition to the software update, Kia said it is shipping more than 27,000 free steering wheel locks to over 140 law enforcement agencies, including nearly 1,500 to police in the St. Louis area, “and we will continue to provide additional free locks as needed.”

Hyundai said engine immobilizers became standard on all vehicles in November 2021. The company said it also provides free steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies to distribute to those who own or lease affected models, and reimburses customers who bought steering wheel locks.

National News

Associated Press

Thousands watch Chincoteague wild ponies complete 99th annual swim in Virginia

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (AP) — Thousands of people gathered in Virginia to watch the Chincoteague wild ponies make their annual swim across the Assateague Channel, the 99th year of the popular tradition. The ponies made the short swim across the channel Wednesday as the crowd erupted in cheers. Foal No. 6 was crowned “Queen Neptune,” the […]

3 minutes ago

Associated Press

Nebraska Legislature convenes for a special session to ease property taxes, but with no solid plan

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers have convened for a special legislative session called by Republican Gov. Jim Pillen with a directive to slash soaring property taxes in half, but no concrete answers on whether the Legislature will be able to agree on how to do that. Convivial lawmakers showed up Thursday for the start […]

4 minutes ago

Associated Press

OpenAI tests ChatGPT-powered search engine that could compete with Google

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — OpenAI is testing a ChatGPT-powered search engine that could put the artificial intelligence company in direct competition with search giant Google and affect the flow of internet traffic seeking news and other timely information. San Francisco-based OpenAI said Thursday it is releasing a preview of the SearchGPT feature to get feedback […]

9 minutes ago

Associated Press

Company says manufacturing problem was behind wind turbine blade breaking off Nantucket Island

NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — The maker of a massive wind turbine blade that broke apart off Nantucket Island and washed up on the beaches says a manufacturing problem was responsible. GE Vernova CEO Scott Strazik said on an earnings call Wednesday that insufficient bonding at one of its factories in Canada was responsible for the […]

15 minutes ago

FILE - West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey presents opening arguments during a trial, A...

Associated Press

West Virginia is asking the US Supreme Court to consider transgender surgery Medicaid coverage case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review rulings that found the state’s refusal to cover certain health care for transgender people with government-sponsored insurance is discriminatory, Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Thursday. In April, the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 8-6 in the case […]

24 minutes ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event a...

Associated Press

Prosecutors urge judge not to toss out Trump’s hush money conviction, pushing back on immunity claim

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors are urging a judge to uphold Donald Trump’s historic hush money conviction, arguing in court papers released Thursday that the verdict should stand despite the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on presidential immunity. The Manhattan district attorney’s office said in a court filing that the high court’s opinion “has no bearing” […]

34 minutes ago

St. Louis sues Kia, Hyundai over rash of car thefts