Hyundai and Kia agree to a $200 million legal settlement over theft cases

New York (CNN) Korean automakers Kia and Hyundai have agreed to a collective legal settlement of about $200 million over allegations that many of the company’s cars and SUVs are too easy to steal.

The settlement, which could cover up to nine million vehicle owners, provides up to $145 million that will be distributed to owners whose vehicles have been stolen to help cover their personal losses.

This can include payments of up to $6,125 per owner for the complete loss of their vehicle as well as payments for damage to vehicle and personal property up to $3,375. It can also include payments for insurance-related expenses and other costs, including car rentals, taxi fares, ride-sharing costs, or public transportation payments not otherwise covered by insurance.

Including costs related to installing anti-theft software systems and payments for other anti-theft measures, the total settlement cost could be slightly more or less than $200 million, depending on the number of co-owners.

The vehicles in question, 2015-2019 Hyundai and Kia models, such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Tucson, Kia Forte, and Sportage, when equipped with a ready ignition—as opposed to cars that only require a button to start—are twice as likely to be stolen than other vehicles of the same type. Age group.

Many of these vehicles lack some of the basic auto theft-prevention technology built into most other vehicles, even in those years, according to the Highway Data Institute, an industry group that tracks insurance statistics. The method of theft, which involves using a USB cable to start the car, has gone viral through social media, especially TikTok.

“We believe this settlement offers comprehensive and welcome class relief that will serve as a lesson to automakers not to overlook integrated core safety features,” Roland Telles of the law firm Baron & Budd said in a statement.

Hyundai and Kia operate as two separate companies in the United States, but the Hyundai Motor Group owns a significant stake in Kia, and many Hyundai and Kia models share much of their engineering.

“This agreement is the latest step in a series of important measures, in addition to providing a free security software upgrade and distribution of more than 65,000 steering wheel locks, that Kia has taken to help customers whose vehicles have been targeted by criminals using common theft tactics on social media,” he said. John Yun, Chief Legal Officer, Kia Motors America, in a statement.

Automakers have already taken other steps to try to stem the tide of thefts. They have created a software patch to try and fix the problem. The patch installs for free on the models that need it, with software that requires a physical key in the ignition to start the vehicle. The software will also prevent the vehicle from starting after the doors are locked using the key fob remote control. The car will need to be unlocked before you can start it.

The program extends the length of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to a full minute. Hyundai dealers will also place stickers on the windows stating that anti-theft software is installed in the vehicle.

As part of the agreement, anti-theft software will now be installed automatically with any dealer service appointment without the owner having to specifically request it.

Under the terms of the settlement, vehicle owners who are unable to obtain the software upgrade for any reason are entitled to reimbursement of up to $300 for the installation of a break-glass alarm, anti-theft system, steering wheel lock, or other. Products or modification to deter theft.

“We appreciate the opportunity to provide additional support to our owners who have been affected by the increased and ongoing criminal activity targeting our vehicles,” Jason Earp, Hyundai Motor North America’s chief legal officer, said in a statement.

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