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City files lawsuit against Hyundai, Kia over vehicle thefts

By Matthew Keck

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    LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (WLKY) — Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg has announced the city has filed a lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia over car thefts.

In July, the Louisville Metro Police Department released a video saying that 1,920 Hyundai and Kia vehicles had been stolen in the Metro this year.

Greenberg said on Thursday that between January and July of this year 2,110 Kias and Hyundais have been stolen. The rise of these thefts has caused police to divert their attention from other crimes, he said.

The theft of these particular vehicles became popular in 2022 when the “Kia challenge” went viral on TikTok. It showed viewers how to steal a Hyundai or Kia using a USB cable to start the car.

Now, the city of Louisville is saying that the manufacturer defect is responsible for the auto thefts in the city. It has typically been an issue with models between 2011-2022.

Greenberg pointed to Kias and Hyundais that are sold in Canada and Europe coming equipped with engine immobilizers to prevent this type of theft. He also cited 96% of other auto manufacturers having these immobilizers on their vehicles.

“Hyundai and Kia have cut corners, shifting part of the cost of their business onto Louisville and its citizens,” he said. “This is contributing to our city’s public safety issues, and it is unacceptable.”

The city has hired two firms, Seattle-based Keller Rorhback L.L.P and Louisville firm Poppe Law Firm, to assist the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office as outside counsel in the lawsuit.

Greenberg said that these law firms have taken on the case at no additional cost to taxpayers in the Metro. Residents affected by this issue will only receive payment if the lawsuit is successful.

In addition to just vehicles being stolen, Greenberg brought up the fact that these thefts can go hand-in-hand with other crimes, such as reckless driving.

An example of these he used was an 18-year-old who was hit and killed in January in a stolen Hyundai. Another he brought up was a stolen Kia crashing into a daycare in west Louisville.

The 57-page lawsuit claims that the two manufacturers were negligent and have created a public nuisance to the city of Louisville.

“Car thefts are a ‘keystone crime,’ meaning a crime which can facilitate other offenses, including burglary, robbery and homicide,” said LMPD Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel. “We’ve made great strides in Louisville to reduce violent crime, but car thefts and attempts to steal cars have noticeably increased, a trend seen nationally as well. This lawsuit is an important step in fixing this outlier to improve public safety.”

The city is asking for a trial by jury and compensatory and punitive damages, among other relief in the lawsuit.

Other cities that have filed similar litigation to this include New York, Chicago, Seattle, Cleveland, Columbus, and Indianapolis.

The two manufacturers agreed to a $200 million settlement in May of this year over the same claims filed in another class action lawsuit.

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