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Lawsuits & Litigation

Missouri Attorney Files Class Action Claiming Kia, Hyundai Cars Can Be Stolen With USB

— July 29, 2022

The lawsuit claims that Hyundai, which also owns a controlling stake in South Korea-based Kia, intentionally failed to install a critical anti-theft features on many of its modern automobile models, leaving them vulnerable to “modern hotwiring.”

A Missouri attorney has filed a lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai, alleging that the automotive manufacturers’ latest models intentionally lack a key anti-theft feature.

According to KMBC, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Missouri and Kansas residents who believe their Kia and Hyundai decisions could have jeopardized consumers’ safety.

“We were frankly surprised [that] a modern manufacturer, particularly one that sells so many cars, would so utterly fail to include the common safety devices that are found on other models,” said Ken McClain, the attorney behind the prospective class action.

In his complaint, McClain specifically alleges that Hyundai, which holds a controlling 33% stake in South Korea-based Kia, did not install “immobilizers” on Kia models manufactured between 2011 and 2021, and Hyundai models manufactured between 2015 and 2021.

An immobilizer, notes KMBC, uses information embedded in a car key or remote fob to determine whether the engine should be allowed to start.

“Because of this “lack of an immobilizer” problem exists on both Kias and Hyundais, they’ve become the target of criminals,” McClain said, “because they’re easy to steal.”

Interestingly, the class action claims that Hyundai practically provides technology-savvy thieves with the tools they need to hijack automobiles.

The affected models, says McClain, all come with standard USB cables and attachments.

Blue police light; image by Max Fleischmann, via
Blue police light; image by Max Fleischmann, via

By simply using a USB with a pre-uploaded script, thieves would be able to effectively take control of security-compromised cars.

“Considering how many people charge their cell phones in their cars, the necessary instrument needed to steal a Defective Vehicle is usually available to any thief,” the lawsuit states.

McClain tells KMBC News that, by using a USB device, thieves can virtually “hotwire” modern automobiles.

While none of the named plaintiffs have actually had their vehicles stolen, McClain said that any member of the class could be affected by Hyundai’s decision-making.

“This will have an impact on the re-sale value of these cars, and also the insurance rates for owners,” he said.

KMBC notes that Hyundai and Kia have issued separate statements acknowledging the problem, and emphasizing that their latest production models have adequate security features.

“Hyundai Motor America is concerned with the rise in local auto thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority. These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles,” Hyundai said in an independent statement partially reprinted by KMBC News.

McClain’s class action asks that both companies either correct the defect or offer replacement vehicles.

“Car manufacturers are reluctant to do recalls because of the cost and avoid them, generally, until they’re mandated by governments,” McClain told KMBC. “These problems are fixable and should be fixed.”


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