COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus City Attorney filed a lawsuit against automakers Kia and Hyundai Wednesday, citing skyrocketing thefts on vehicle models that lack industry-standard anti-theft technology.
Nearly two-thirds of all vehicle theft attempts since January 2022 in Columbus were Kia and Hyundai models, according to City Attorney Zach Klein. Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 18, 2022, there were 8,000 successful and attempted vehicle thefts in Columbus.
“The taxpayer cost of Kia and Hyundai’s negligence continues to rise as local law enforcement diverts limited resources to investigate thefts, respond to crimes and assess property destruction,” said Klein. “It’s time we held these automakers accountable for cheating consumers and passing the buck and responsibility to clean up the mess they made onto the rest of us.”
Since a viral trend that began more than a year ago, Columbus has seen a 400% increase in Hyundai and Kia thefts with an average of 17 vehicles stolen every day, Klein’s office says.
Many of the models were stolen by a group of juveniles known as the “Kia Boyz,” which CrimeTracker10 has been following for some time. Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant said in November that Kia and Hyundai thefts were a daily problem for them and they are arresting juveniles in stolen vehicles daily.
10TV’s Lacey Crisp asked Klein in August if his office was considering a lawsuit. At that time, Klein said no.
Klein explained the reason now is because, “It's a matter of watching the wave continue and seeing our police officers are being diverted to deal with this issue and frankly seeing way too many of our kids, because they are primarily juveniles who are watching the TikToks and stealing cars in 30 seconds, end up significantly injured or dead.”
Columbus has been engaged in discussions with Kia and Hyundai since November 2022 about the rising thefts and associated costs that have been put on car owners and cities as a result. Klein stated that the automakers must provide a permanent security fix for affected vehicles at no cost to car owners.
Earlier this week, the automakers announced that certain models would soon be eligible for a no-cost security fix.
“I commend Kia and Hyundai for heeding our call and providing a no-cost security fix for drivers, but unfortunately a lot of damage has been done. The fact remains that thousands of Columbus residents have already had their cars stolen and our law enforcement continues to divert significant time and resources to respond to these crimes. We have no choice but to file a lawsuit to hold these multinational corporations accountable for this significant and rising cost to taxpayers.”
The city contends in the lawsuit that Kia and Hyundai thefts due to “substandard security features” in their vehicles have cost consumers, insurance companies, local governments and law enforcement millions of dollars.
The city also contends that the automakers intentionally and consciously manufactured, marketed and sold vehicles that lacked industry-standard security features. This includes engine immobilizers and other anti-theft systems.
According to Klein, the city is asking the court to compel the automakers to alleviate costs of damages sustained by the city.
In November, Mayor Andrew Ginther said, “It's time for Kia to step up. This is absolutely unacceptable to put so many young people at risk, families at risk. Kia needs to step up and help solve this problem.”