On Monday, City Attorney Ann Davison filed a lawsuit in federal court against car manufacturers Kia and Hyundai for their failure to install anti-theft technology in some vehicles which has contributed to an exponential increase of Kia and Hyundai car theft in Seattle and other regions. Though Kia and Hyundai are aware of the public safety concerns arising from the huge spike in theft of their vehicles, they have not taken meaningful steps to address the problem. From 2021 to 2022, thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars increased by 363% and 503%, respectively, in Seattle. In July 2022, alone, the Seattle Police Department reported a 620% increase in reports of stolen Hyundais and Kias over the previous July.
“Kia and Hyundai chose to cut corners and cut costs at the expense of their customers and the public. As a result, our police force has had to tackle a huge rise in vehicle theft and related problems with already stretched resources. Now Seattle taxpayers must shoulder the burden of the increase in theft,” said City Attorney Ann Davison. “Kia and Hyundai need to take responsibility for the public safety hazard that they created.”
Reducing vehicle theft protects property and the public by keeping dangerous drivers in stolen vehicles off the roads. A relatively simple and inexpensive fix from Kia and Hyundai would have prevented hundreds of thefts in Seattle this year and saved substantial city resources. Viral videos have taught many the relative ease with which Hyundai and Kia vehicles can be stolen, in many cases with tools no more advanced than a USB cable. The significant increase in vehicle theft has seriously jeopardized public safety. In many cases, stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been involved in major accidents and these stolen vehicles are often used to commit other criminal activity and even violent crime. For example, just three weeks ago, a group of teens were arrested for robbery after using two of these stolen vehicles to rob a man in Ballard and then flee to Federal Way.
“Now that people know how easy it is to steal Hyundais and Kias, the Seattle Police Department has noticed a huge increase in the theft of these models,” Chief Adrian Z. Diaz said, “from 48 reported thefts of Hyundais and Kias in August to 197 in December. Sixty-four percent of those vehicles were later recovered within city limits, which shows they’re most likely being taken for short periods of time, often in order to commit other crimes. To protect the hard-earned property of Seattle residents, car makers need to take this problem seriously and do all they can to prevent these thefts.”
To assist the City’s law enforcement efforts combating auto theft, City Attorney Davison seeks to recover damages for the City and compel the auto manufacturers to abate the nuisance caused by their failure to install anti-theft technology which is the industry standard and nearly universal to all other car makers. Auto thefts of unprotected Kia and Hyundai models occur predominantly in the Seattle neighborhoods of Northgate, Capitol Hill, Central District and Beacon Hill.