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Seattle sues Kia and Hyundai after rise in car thefts

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The city of Seattle is suing Kia and Hyundai, arguing the company did not take adequate anti-theft measures to prevent its cars from being stolen.

“Kia and Hyundai chose to cut corners and cut costs at the expense of their customers and the public," Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison said in a statement. "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. Kia and Hyundai need to take responsibility for the public safety hazard that they created.”

RELATED: Seattle police warn Kia drivers after TikTok trend prompts spike in thefts

According to the City Attorney's Office, Seattle saw a 363% increase in the theft of Kias, and a 503% increase in the thefts of Hyundais between 2021 and 2022. KUOW previously reported that 80 cars were stolen each day, on average, throughout King and Pierce counties in November 2022.

Kia and Hyundai models are vulnerable to a specific type of car theft. Using a simple USB cable, a person can access the ignition and turn the cars on. Instructions on how to do this have spread far and wide on the internet, leading to a rise in thefts of such cars nationally. The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force has noted that 2011 or newer Kias, or a 2015 or newer Hyundais are particularly at risk. Kia and Hyundai have said that models after 2022 have included a fix to this issue.

This is not the first lawsuit filed over this issue with Kia and Hyundai cars.

The City Attorney's Office notes that in some cases, the cars were stolen and used in other crimes. It points to a recent incident as an example. A group of teens reportedly used two stolen cars to rob a Ballard man and then drive to Federal Way. The office notes that such Kia and Hyundai auto thefts have hit Seattle's Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Northgate particularly hard.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

The city of Seattle is seeking compensation for damages from the car companies, and to force them to include anti-theft technology in their vehicles.

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