Baltimore has joined Seattle, St. Louis, and other cities in a lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia after the company’s vehicles have been targeted in a rash of thefts nationwide.
Baltimore officials accuse Hyundai and Kia of failing to include industry-standard immobilization technology in their vehicles, making it possible to start the vehicles without a key. The thefts have gained traction in part through TikTok videos demonstrating how to steal the cars.
This year alone, 577 Kias and Hyundais have been stolen in Baltimore, city officials reported. If that pace continues, officials said, the year-end total will be more than double that of 2022.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott echoed the concerns voiced by other mayors around the nation about the risks and vulnerabilities this creates for owners of these vehicles, and the inadequacy of the automakers’ response.
“These cost-cutting measures employed by Hyundai and Kia at the expense of public safety are unacceptable,” said Scott in a press release from his office. “They have left our residents vulnerable to crime and are significantly burdening our police resources.”
Earlier this year, the Baltimore County Police Department distributed steering wheel locks to owners of Hyundai vehicles in an effort to curtail the car thefts. Kia also gave away steering wheel locks.
Other cities suing the automakers include Cleveland; San Diego; Milwaukee; New York; and Columbus, Ohio.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said in March, “Big corporations like Kia and Hyundai must be held accountable for endangering our residents and putting profit over people.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in an April statement, “We are not going to sit idly by while automakers turn a blind eye to safety and make it easy for criminals to prey on New Yorkers.” He continued, “New Yorkers count on their Kia and Hyundai automobiles to earn a living, get to and from work, transport their children and elderly family members, and live their daily lives.”
Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said, “The Baltimore Police Department has tracked the striking increase of auto thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles throughout the city. Year-to-date, auto thefts are up 95%, with Kia and Hyundais representing 41% of all stolen vehicles.”
Harrison continued, “We must demand more from these manufacturers in addressing this increase in vehicle thefts, which put victims and residents in harm’s way. This lawsuit represents a first step in holding these manufactures accountable and establishing necessary safeguards to improve the quality of life for our residents.”
The Baltimore City lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Richard Gordon and Martin Wolf of Gordon, Wolf & Carney, and Sara Gross of the Baltimore City Department of Law will represent Baltimore City in the suit.