Kia, Hyundai settle class-action lawsuit after a rash of thefts

FILE - A line of 2022 Santa Fe SUV's sit outside a Hyundai dealership Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Littleton, Colo. Hyundai Motor America and Kia America will resolve class-action lawsuit prompted by a surge in vehicle thefts with a settlement agreement that could be valued at $200 million, the automakers announced Friday, May 19, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hyundai Motor America and Kia America said Friday they have reached a settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit prompted by a surge in vehicle thefts.

The settlement could be valued at $200 million and covers about 9 million 2011-2022 model year Hyundai and Kia vehicles in the U.S., the companies said.

The cars are not equipped with push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices. That has allowed thieves to easily steal them using just a screwdriver and a USB cord, creating a recent rash of auto thefts across the country.

The settlement will provide cash compensation to customers who suffered theft-related losses or damage not covered by insurance — as well as reimbursement for insurance deductibles, increased insurance premiums and other losses, Kia and Hyundai said.

A software upgrade will also be provided to eligible owners. For customers with vehicles that cannot accommodate the software upgrade, the agreement will provide a reimbursement of up to $300 for anti-theft devices.

Kia and Hyundai have also given impacted customers tens of thousands of free steering wheel locks through local law enforcement and direct shipments, the companies said.

The total settlement amount will depend on how many customers participate.

“Hyundai and Kia failed to sell cars equipped with fundamental anti-theft features, and that was not a victimless act,” attorney Elizabeth A. Fegan of Fegan Scott, one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “We are pleased with the settlement reached and its immediate ability to hinder thieves, as well as compensate victims of thefts that have already occurred.”

The proposed settlement is expected to be reviewed in court for preliminary approval in July.

The wave of Hyundai and Kia thefts began in 2021 and spread nationally, with a spike last summer, fueled by instructional videos posted on TikTok and other social media sites. Some police departments report continued thefts despite the automakers’ unveiling of anti-theft software nearly three months ago.

Both Jason Erb, Hyundai Motor North America’s chief legal officer, and John Yoon, Kia America’s chief legal officer, stressed that the companies are committed to customer safety.

“We appreciate the opportunity to provide additional support for our owners who have been impacted by increasing and persistent criminal activity targeting our vehicles,” Erb said.