San Diego City Attorney Sues Kia and Hyundai After Social Media Theft Lawsuit

On Friday, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office sued automakers Hyundai and Kia for allegedly not equipping their vehicles with sufficient anti-theft technology, which the city says has contributed to the recent spike in car thefts across San Diego.

City officials say Hyundai and Kia vehicles are not equipped with an immobilizer that ensures the cars cannot be started without a key.

The city’s lawsuit spans from 2011 to 2021, when it alleges that other automakers implemented the safety feature while Hyundai and Kia “haven’t kept up with the times.”

Similar lawsuits have been filed by other municipalities against both automakers following an increase in thefts reportedly sparked by social media videos of thieves demonstrating how cars can be stolen using USB cables.

The city’s attorney’s office alleges that 146 Hyundai and Kia vehicles were stolen in San Diego in the first six months of 2022, and 369 vehicles were stolen in the last six months of the year.

The lawsuit details six cases in the past year in which stolen Kia and Hyundai were used to commit crimes in San Diego County.

“Making sure cars aren’t easy to steal keeps dangerous drivers in stolen cars off the road,” San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott said. “Hyundai and Kia’s decision to put cost savings and profits ahead of public safety has had profound consequences for San Diego and its residents, resulting in a significant increase in auto theft, reckless driving, related crime, and public harm.”

Last month, Hyundai and Kia announced a free anti-theft software update for vehicle owners to help prevent theft. Both automakers say they are working with local law enforcement to provide steering wheel locks for those affected. The Chula Vista Police Department told NBC 7 they received nothing. NBC 7 has also contacted the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, but NBC 7 has not received a response as of this article’s publication.

Hyundai sent NBC 7 the following statement:

Hyundai is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of its products. All Hyundai vehicles comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 114 anti-theft requirements. Due to an increase in theft of Hyundai cars without ignition button and immobilization of anti-theft devices in the United States, Hyundai has introduced a free anti-theft software update. to prevent vehicles from starting during a theft popularized on TikTok and other social media.

All Hyundai vehicles manufactured since November 2021 are equipped with an engine immobilizer as standard. Hyundai is also providing law enforcement with free steering wheel locks to distribute to local residents who own or rent affected models.

Kia sent NBC 7 the following statement:

Kia remains deeply concerned that the theft of certain car models encouraged by social media content that promotes criminal behavior is a problem. To combat these crimes, we continue to release a free Extended Security Software Update to limit unauthorized activation of vehicle ignition systems, and we also provide free steering wheel locks to affected owners through local law enforcement. To date, Kia has already reached out to more than 1.5 million Kia owners and renters to let them know the availability of a software update and encourage them to schedule a free installation at any Kia dealer. We have also shipped or are shipping over 23,000 free steering wheel locks to over 120 law enforcement agencies nationwide and we will provide additional locks as needed.

Lawsuits against Kia by the municipalities are groundless. All Kia vehicles are subject to, and fully compliant with, the stringent testing rules and regulations set out in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 114, which governs ignition and anti-theft security systems. Kia has been, and continues to be, committed to working with local authorities in San Diego and law enforcement throughout the city to combat auto theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it.

Clients must visit for more information about their eligibility for an upgrade or learn more about obtaining a steering wheel lock directly.

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