Hyundai and Kia owners can thank TikTok for publicizing a flaw in their cars' design that makes them easy to steal. They can also thank their lawyers for rushing to court with a class-action lawsuit that the company has agreed to settle for about $200 million.
The lawsuit stems from the automakers’ failure to equip 2011-2022 models with an immobilizer, a common antitheft device in modern cars which prevents most vehicles from being started unless a code is transmitted from the vehicle’s smart key.
The lack of immobilizer in affected vehicles spawned viral “Kia Challenge” TikTok videos demonstrating simple measures “Kia Boys” take to steal affected Hyundai and Kia vehicles using only a common USB charging cord or similar metal object to start the engine.
The settlement affects 2011-2011 leased or purchased Hyundais and Kia. Learn more about the lawsuit here.
9 million cars
Attorneys say the settlement will address a multitude of situations faced by owners of affected vehicles, which total 9 million – 4.5 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias.
“The settlement will provide benefits as soon as possible to those who have suffered out-of-pocket losses due to car thefts in Hyundai and Kia cars without immobilizers,” said Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman and chair of the lead committee representing affected vehicle owners in the lawsuit. “The agreement also offers upgrades to fix the lack of immobilizer at the heart of the issue, as well as payments to those who are not eligible for the upgrade.”
“Our goal in finalizing this settlement was to leave no one in the dark,” Berman added. “The owners of these cars have experienced enough upset, and we worked to achieve a settlement that covers many types of losses – from those who were lucky enough to have never had their theft-prone car stolen, to those whose stolen cars were totaled completely due to Hyundai and Kia’s negligence.”
About the settlement
The settlement provides various benefits, outlined below:
- Up to $145 Million for Out-of-Pocket Losses. This tier of payments includes compensation for a range of out-of-pocket damages, including total loss of vehicles up to $6,125, damage to vehicle and personal property up to $3,375, insurance-related expenses and other related expenses including car rental, taxi costs, ride share costs or public transit payments not otherwise covered by insurance.
The settlement will also reimburse affected owners for towing costs as well as other fees and taxes related to replacement vehicles, if the affected car was lost or stolen.
The settlement also includes payments to those whose vehicles suffered crashes or were stolen and never recovered, as well as coverage for speeding tickets, red light tickets or other penalties or fines incurred arising from a stolen vehicle.
Finally, class members may also seek to recover losses related to lost income or childcare expenses resulting from the implementation of the software upgrade.
- Software Upgrades. At no cost, owners of affected vehicles are eligible for a software upgrade to effectively address the cars’ lack of an immobilizer. The software is designed to prevent the vehicles from starting without the key being present.
Hyundai vehicles eligible for the software upgrade include: 2018-2022 Accent, 2011-2022 Elantra, 2013-2020 Elantra GT, 2018-2022 Kona, 2013-2022 Santa Fe, 2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport, 2019 Santa Fe XL, 2011-2019 Sonata, 2011-2022 Tucson, 2012-2017, 2019-2021 Veloster, 2020-2021 Venue, 2013-2014 Genesis Coupe and 2020-2021 Palisade.
Kia vehicles eligible for the software upgrade include: 2011-2022 Kia Sportage, 2011-2022 Kia Sorento, 2021-2022 Kia K5, 2011-2021 Kia Sedona, 2014-2021 Kia Forte, 2012-2021 Kia Rio, 2021-2022 Kia Seltos, 2011-2020 Kia Optima and 2020-2022 Kia Soul.
- Payments in Lieu of Software Upgrades. Owners of models that are not able to receive the software upgrade will be eligible for reimbursement of up to $300 for the installation of a glass breakage alarm or anti-theft system, purchase of a steering wheel lock, or other aftermarket modifications designed to deter or prevent theft.
Settlement websites will soon be made available to class members for more information.
“We believe this settlement offers comprehensive, welcome relief for the class that will serve as a lesson to automakers to not overlook such integral, basic safety features,” said Roland Tellis of Baron & Budd.