Chicago Sues Hyundai, Kia Over Steep Rise in Vehicle Thefts


The City of Chicago has sued both Hyundai and Kia in response to the car theft crisis city officials say has been fueled by vehicles from the South Korean car manufacturers.

The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County and notes that Kia Corporation, Kia America, Hyundai Motor Company and Hyundai Motor America failed to equip most cars sold in the U.S. between 2011 and 2022 with immobilizers. The City of Chicago is asking the court to hit the car manufacturers with fines, issue an injunction to prevent them from advertising their cars as being fitted with key safety features, and also wants them to pay damages to the city.

Last year, 21,425 cars were stolen in the city. A staggering 41% of stolen cars were Hyundai and Kia models, despite those only accounting for 7% of cars on local roads. Things have gotten even worse this year, with thefts already up more than 100% from the same point last year, hitting 19,062. In some months, Hyundai and Kia models account for more than 50% of cars stolen.

“The impact of car theft on Chicago residents can be deeply destabilizing, particularly for low- to middle-income workers who have fewer options for getting to work and taking care of their families,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said. “The failure of Kia and Hyundai to install basic anti-theft prevention technology in these models is sheer negligence, and as a result, a citywide and nationwide crime spree around automobile theft has been unfolding right before our eyes.”

The city said because Hyundai and Kia vehicles are “entry-level models,” the lack of engine immobilizers is disproportionately impacting low-income residents in Chicago. It added thieves who steal Hyundai and Kia vehicles can use them to commit other crimes like reckless driving, armed robbery and even murder.

“This is about saving lives and preventing the violent crimes that these stolen vehicles are used in,” Interim Superintendent Fred Waller said. “As law enforcement, we are doing everything we can to prevent these thefts, but these vehicle companies must also be held accountable.”

Kia said the lawsuit is “without merit” in a statement issued to Forbes and said it has introduced a software update to rectify the issue while also distributing 19,000 free steering wheel locks to owners.

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

We thank CarScoops for reprint permission.

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