NEW YORK: New York City on Tuesday sued Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Corp, accusing the South Korean automakers of negligence and creating a public nuisance by selling vehicles that are too easy to steal.
The most populous US city joined several other major cities that have sued Hyundai and Kia over the thefts, including Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego and Seattle.
Hyundai and Kia did not immediately respond to requests for comment after market hours.
In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, New York faulted the automakers for having between 2011 and 2022 failed to install anti-theft devices called immobilisers on most of their cars, making them “nearly unique” among automobile manufacturers.
New York said this has “opened the floodgates to vehicle theft, crime sprees, reckless driving, and public harm.”
The city said the number of reported stolen Hyundais and Kias doubled last year, followed by a “virtual explosion of thefts” in the first four months of 2023 with 977 reported thefts, up from 148 in the same period in 2022.
In contrast, the city said thefts of BMW, Ford, Honda, Mercedes, Nissan and Toyota vehicles have fallen this year.
The complaint seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Last month, Hyundai and Kia reached a US$200 million settlement of a consumer class action over the thefts.
That case covered about 9 million US vehicle owners, and included as much as US$145 million to cover losses for stolen vehicles, lawyers for the owners said.
In February, Hyundai and Kia said they would offer software upgrades for as many as 8.3 million US vehicles that lack the immobilisers.
The case is City of New York v Hyundai Motor America et al, US district court, Southern District of New York, No 23-04772.