Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson Takes Legal Action Against Car Manufacturers Amid Escalating Car Theft 'Emergency'

Chicago Files Lawsuit Against Kia and Hyundai Over Car Theft Crisis

Chicago’s Democratic Mayor, Brandon Johnson, has taken legal action by filing a lawsuit against automakers Kia and Hyundai in response to the escalating car theft crisis in the city. The lawsuit alleges that both companies neglected to include essential “industry-standard engine immobilizers” in multiple vehicle models, leading to a significant surge in criminal activity.

Mayor Johnson expressed concern about the adverse impact of car theft on Chicago residents, particularly those from low- to middle-income backgrounds who rely heavily on their vehicles for work and family responsibilities. He criticized Kia and Hyundai for their failure to incorporate basic auto-theft prevention technology in these vehicle models, deeming it an act of negligence. The mayor asserted that the absence of such security measures has contributed to a citywide and nationwide increase in car theft incidents.

The legal complaint targets both automakers for their alleged failure to equip cars sold in the U.S. between 2011 and 2022 with essential anti-theft technology. The complaint argues that Kia and Hyundai misled consumers by marketing their vehicles as having “advanced” safety features while being aware of the critical defect and its potential consequences.

Surge in Car Thefts Linked to Hyundai and Kia Models After Social Media Videos Surface

Following the exposure of a significant “defect” in Hyundai and Kia vehicles through social media videos, there was a drastic increase in car theft incidents. Thefts of vehicles from these two brands surged from just under 500 during the first half of 2022 to surpass 3,350 in the latter half of the same year.

As of 2023, thefts involving Kia and Hyundai cars now constitute more than half of all reported car thefts in Chicago.

Given that these targeted vehicles are often entry-level models, the failure of Kia and Hyundai to include essential engine immobilizers disproportionately affects the city’s low-income residents. Furthermore, the stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been linked to a range of other criminal activities, including reckless driving, armed robbery, and even cases of homicide, as highlighted by Johnson’s office.

Responding to inquiries from FOX Business, a representative from Hyundai conveyed that starting from November 2021, engine immobilizers have been made a standard feature in all vehicles produced by the company.

The spokesperson underlined Hyundai’s dedication to undertaking a comprehensive approach aimed at aiding customers and communities impacted by the ongoing issue of theft involving specific vehicles lacking push-button ignitions and engine immobilizers. They further noted that Hyundai dealers across the nation are actively maximizing the installation of anti-theft software on a daily basis, which in turn is leading to a consistent rise in completion rates. These progress updates are regularly communicated to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).