Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia will pay $200 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by owners who had their vehicles stolen during a nationwide rash of car thefts, The New York Times reported Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, the car companies sold car models between 2011 and 2022 that did not have immobilizers, a feature that prevents the engine from starting unless the key is near or in the car.
When it was discovered that the immobilizers were missing, a TikTok trend called “Kia Challenge,” went viral, daring people to steal the vulnerable cars. Videos that showed how to steal the cars were posted on TikTok and YouTube.
According to the lawsuit, Kia and Hyundai vehicles could be boosted within 90 seconds because of the missing immobilizers.
The models affected include Hyundai Elantras and Sonatas, as well as Kia Fortes and Souls, lawyers and the automakers said Thursday. About nine million vehicles have been impacted.
“Our goal in finalizing this settlement was to leave no one in the dark,” Steve Berman of the Seattle law firm Hagens Berman said in a statement.
“The owners of these cars have experienced enough upset, and we worked to achieve a settlement that covers many types of losses — from those who were lucky enough to have never had their theft-prone car stolen, to those whose stolen cars were totaled completely due to Hyundai and Kia’s negligence.”
According to Bergman, up to $145 million from the settlement funds will be used to reimburse owners who had their vehicles stolen or damaged. The settlement still must be approved by a federal judge.
Kia has also provided a free security software upgrade and distributed more than 65,000 steering-wheel locks,” John Yoon, Kia America’s chief legal officer said in a statement.
Under the settlement, any owner whose vehicle isn’t compatible with the software update can purchase another anti-theft device, such as a steering wheel lock, and be reimbursed by Kia or Hyundai for up to $300.
Hyundai and Kia said in a statement on Thursday that they would also reimburse owners for insurance deductibles, increased insurance premiums and other theft-related losses, the Times reported.
While the manufacturers operate independently, Hyundai is the parent company of Kia Motors.
The theft of Hyundai and Kia vehicles has had an impact on drivers in the Charlotte area. Earlier this month, Channel 9 spoke with a woman who said someone stole her Kia and crashed it. She expressed worry about a possible increase in her insurance from her called an "already expensive rate."
The severe increase in the theft of Kia and Hyundai vehicles caused the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to give away hundreds of free steering wheel locks to drivers. CMPD said the number of Kias and Hyundais has spiked by 1,800% this year.
Police believe the spike is due to a TikTok video that shows a simple way to steal Hyundai and Kia cars.