Crime /

Kia and Hyundai Sued by Seattle for Alleged Role in Increased Car Thefts

‘Kia and Hyundai need to take responsibility for the public safety hazard that they created,’ said Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison

The city of Seattle filed a lawsuit against carmakers Kia and Hyundai for allegedly not doing enough to prevent cars from being stolen.

The City’s Attorney’s Office is seeking compensation for damages from the companies, which Seattle accuses of not including anti-theft devices. The city also wants to compel the makers to include anti-theft devices in all their models.

“Kia and Hyundai chose to cut corners and cut costs at the expense of their customers and the public,” Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison said in a statement on Jan. 25. “As a result, our police force has had to tackle a huge rise in vehicle theft and related problems with already stretched resources. Now Seattle taxpayers must shoulder the burden of the increase in theft. Kia and Hyundai need to take responsibility for the public safety hazard that they created.”

The City Attorney’s Office said car theft influences the overall safety of the city as “reducing vehicle theft protects property and the public by keeping dangerous drivers in stolen vehicles off the roads.” 

The city government reports that, between 2021 and 2022, the number of Kias stolen in Seattle increased by 363%. Thefts of Hyundais increased by 503% during the same one-year period.

Information about how to steal Kias and Hyundais is reportedly widely available, increasing the models’ likelihood of being stolen.

According to KUOW:

Using a simple USB cable, a person can access the ignition and turn the cars on. Instructions on how to do this have spread far and wide on the internet, leading to a rise in thefts of such cars nationally. The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force has noted that 2011 or newer Kias, or a 2015 or newer Hyundais are particularly at risk. Kia and Hyundai have said that models after 2022 have included a fix to this issue.

In the press release from Davidson’s office, Chief Adrian Z. Diaz of the Seattle Police Department said that the knowledge of how to steal these models had an immediate impact on the city. His department found that the number of stolen Kias and Hyndais jumped from 48 in August to 197 in December. 

“Sixty-four percent of those vehicles were later recovered within city limits, which shows they’re most likely being taken for short periods of time, often in order to commit other crimes,” said Diaz. “To protect the hard-earned property of Seattle residents, car makers need to take this problem seriously and do all they can to prevent these thefts.”

According to a 2022 report from The Street, data from the Insurance Information Institute and the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicate full-sized Ford and Chevrolet pick-up trucks, Honda Civics, Honda Accords and Toyota Camry were the car models most likely to be stolen.

In September 2022, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that thefts of Kia and Hyundais were on the rise although luxury vehicles and sports cars were usually more commonly reported stolen. On its list of the 20 car models most likely to be stolen, the Kia Rio ranked number eight, the Kia Sportage was number 13, and the Kia Sportage 4WD was number 16. The Hyundai Accent was ranked twentieth.

The FBI reported that in 2020 motor vehicle theft losses total $7.4 billion. 

Crime has been on the rise in Seattle for the last five years. In 2018, the city recorded 32 homicides, 2,698 aggravated assaults, 102 arsons, and 3,999 car thefts. In 2021, Seattle police reported a 15% year-to-year increase in the theft of car parts and accessories and an 8% increase in car thefts. Shooting and shots fired incidents reached a 10-year high in 2021, increasing by 40% in one year.

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