Greater Cincinnati car owners file class action lawsuit

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CINCINNATI (INVESTIGATOR) — At 3 a.m. on July 14, a police officer knocked on the front door of Sherry Mason in Pleasant Ridge.

“Is your car supposed to be parked out front?” asked the officer.

Mason was confused. She had parked her car in front of her building on Thursday evening, as she does every evening. Unfortunately, early this Friday morning, his 2020 Kia Sorento was waiting for him in a pound.

The car was littered with rubbish, the steering column detached and the ceiling lights removed, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. Mason said other things missing from the car were her manual and the ashes of her friend’s dog that she was supposed to deliver the next day.

“I don’t know why they would do that. It does not mean anything. There was loose change and other things that they didn’t touch,” Mason said.

Mason said the theft had made her life difficult for the past month and she was not alone. Many people contacted her on social networks their experiences flying their Kia or Hyundai vehicle.

Mason is among those joining a lawsuit filed Friday against automakers seeking to have them repair or replace those vehicles and compensate affected car owners.

According to the InvestigatorCincinnati attorney Jeffrey Goldenberg along with Goldenberg Schneider, LPA filed a class action lawsuit against the automakers in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where the companies are based.

“Kia and Hyundai have chosen not to include what almost every other manufacturer includes in any model of their cars called an immobilizer, and these vehicles can easily be started without a key,” Goldenberg said. An immobilizer prevents the engine from starting unless the correct key is present. Goldenberg thinks automakers chose not to include immobilizers in these vehicles to cut costs.

California lawsuit seeks compensation and fixes for Kia and Hyundai cars

The lawsuit argues that the plaintiffs overpaid for these vehicles because they did not know they lacked engine immobilizers, making them more vulnerable to thieves, and therefore owe them financial compensation.

The lawsuit also asks automakers to take responsibility and install appropriate equipment to make them less vulnerable to theft.

According to the lawsuit, the affected vehicles are Kia models from 2011-2021 and all Hyundai models from 2015-2021.

The firm said individuals can still join the class action. Participation is not limited to those whose car has been stolen, but to any Kia and Hyundai owner whose vehicle is at risk of being stolen, as the viral videos show. Several complaints have been filed in recent weeks, including in federal courts in Ohio.

In a statement to The Enquirer, Kia America expressed concern about increased auto thefts of a subset of Kia vehicles.

“It is unfortunate that criminals are using social media to target vehicles without ignition interlocks in a coordinated effort. All of our vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Although no car can be protected against theft, criminals seek vehicles equipped only with a steel key and a “turn-to-start” ignition system. The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and a push-button start system, which makes them more difficult to steal,” the company said.

The automaker said all 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the start of the model year or as an ongoing change.

Thefts at Hyundai and Kia are happening across the country

Mason’s Sorento was found abandoned about two miles from his Pleasant Ridge home. Officers explained that based on how his vehicle was stolen, it was likely part of a TikTok trend targeting Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

Detective Joseph Ruwe of the Delhi Township Police Department said what happened to Mason is all too common locally and across the country.

Videos on social media show car thieves how to peel off the steering column of a Hyundai or Kia vehicle and use a USB cable to start the cars. When Mason’s Kia was stolen, the thieves used a USB cable that was already inside his car.

Ruwe said most thefts are committed by teenagers between the ages of 14 and 19, and they even steal multiple cars a night in some cases.

“They drive around in a stolen car, then if they find another, they park it and then drive the new stolen car. Or if there are several people in the car, they will take another, so each person has one,” Ruwe said.

Mason’s Kia sat at the store for about 30 days. The parts needed to repair it were out of stock due to the frequency of these thefts. His insurance helps cover his expenses, but it cost him a $1,000 deductible.

She’s still waiting for a new cover for her steering column, which can take weeks due to high demand, so in the meantime, she’ll have to drive with the wires lying around.

“It’s heartbreaking because it’s just a game for them. It’s a challenge to see how many cars they can steal in one night. So they arranged a match at my expense,” Mason said. “And it’s still not over. I’m afraid it will be stolen again. It could be stolen tomorrow, and I have no way to protect it.

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