Last month, the Los Angeles Police Department alerted the community to a viral TikTok challenge that encourages the theft of Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
One in five vehicle thefts this year is a Kia or Hyundai, police said, and officials believe that is in part due to the lack of an “immobilizer,” an anti-theft device that’s absent from key-started Kias and Hyundais manufactured between 2011 and 2021.
With the immobilizer’s absence, the cars can be stolen with only a USB cable and a screwdriver.
On Wednesday, Orange County attorney Jonathan Michaels filed a class-action lawsuit against Kia America and Hyundai Motor America. The two companies operate independently, but Kia’s parent company is Hyundai.
The lawsuit claims the companies’ decision to rely on older technology led to an increase in thefts and an ensuing loss of value on the resale market.
“It’s just like one of the old-fashioned keys from the 1960s, just an actual key. They’re the only manufacturer that we know of that makes a car that doesn’t have an engine immobilizer,” Michaels said.
Michaels estimated that there are 10 million vehicles that lack an immobilizer, and each vehicle would cost about $500 to fix.
“That’s about a $5 billion recall,” he said.
Kia and Hyundai declined to comment on pending legislation, though they said they’re working with police on the issue.