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Hyundai and Kia owners are sweaty under their collars, waiting for software updates. Why? So they don’t get their car stolen by those dastardly Kia Boys engaging in Korean car-based skullduggery and mischief. In fact, it’s gotten so bad, and Hyundai (Kia’s parent company) has done so little, major cities are going after the multinational automaker.

Who are the Kia Boys?

If you haven’t heard by now, the Kia Boys are less a group of people and more a metropolitan criminal movement. What’s the goal? They seek to steal a myriad of best-selling Korean-brand cars and run rampant throughout the streets. But these aren’t innocent adolescent joyrides; many are linked to additional crimes, including some fatalities.

Why is Hyundai being sued?

Even with America’s litigation-loving culture, youths in reasonably-priced Korean cars shouldn’t spawn a now-nationwide force of lawsuits, right? If you asked Hyundai, the company would offer a response of being “committed to its products” or something vaguely dismissive like that. Well, in one of the very, very few statements from the automaker, a Hyundai spokesperson told Fox Business the company is “committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products.” It figures. 

As can be expected, people and indeed the political officials in the cities and states where they live are not happy. Lawsuits are now coming in hot and heavy, alleging manufacturer defects and seeking compensation for skyrocketing law enforcement expenditures. Importantly, Hyundai and Kia cars built before November 1, 2021, do not have ignition immobilizers as standard equipment, such as the following:

Affected Hyundai models built between 2016 and 2021 Affected Kias models built 2011 and 2021
Accent: subcompact sedan Forte: compact sedan
Elantra, Elantra GT: compact sedan Niro: compact crossover SUV
Kona: compact crossover SUVOptima: midsize sedan
Palisade: large SUVRio: subcompact sedan
Santa Fe, Santa Fe Sport, Santa Fe XL: compact SUVSoul: compact crossover SUV
Sonata: midsize sedanSportage: midsize crossover SUV
Tucson: compact SUVTelluride: midsize SUV
Veloster: liftback coupe
Venue: compact crossover SUV

Cities are stepping in with Hyundai and Kia owners vulnerable to three and nearly four-digit increases in car thefts and vehicular crimes. Eight major municipalities are combining their legal might to hold Hyundai accountable.

1. Baltimore, Maryland

The Kia boys have hit Baltimore hard
Baltimore, Maryland | Robert Knopes/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The latest city to file a lawsuit against Hyundai is Maryland’s capital. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison asserted that through the first five months of 2023, car thefts were up 95%. Hyundai and Kia vehicles comprise 41% of all car thefts within the city limits.

“These cost-cutting measures employed by Hyundai and Kia at the expense of public safety are unacceptable,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott in a May 11, 2023, press release. “They have left our residents vulnerable to crime and are significantly burdening our police resources.”

2. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio, had a crime spree from the Kia Boys
Cleveland, Ohio | John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Cleveland city officials, including Mayor Justin Bibb, announced a federal lawsuit against the two automakers on March 8, 2023. The municipality seeks damages for overtime paid to patrol officers and other staff members at the police impound lot. News 5 Cleveland reports that Ohio’s second-largest city began experiencing the wave of Kia Boys mischief as early as 2021. But the criminal incident quickly grew out of control.

Between October and December of 2022—a three-month period—1,200 Hyundais and Kias were stolen in a city with less than 400,000 people. City Attorney Mark Griffin put the effects of the rise in Kia Boys car thefts bluntly. “Our impound lot became the largest Kia dealer in the state of Ohio,” he said. “That is not something that we can sustain because every single one of those costs residents money…We are going to seek compensation.”

3. Columbus, Ohio

The Kia Boys hit Columbus
Columbus, Ohio | Carol M. Highsmith via Getty Images

On February 15, 2023, neighboring Columbus, Ohio, also joined the official grievance process. Yet, they have put the lowest price tag on their lawsuit by far. The city’s police force is looking to recoup $75,000 for the costs associated with “soaring rates” of vehicle thefts since the beginning of 2022. City Attorney Zach Klein said the automaker’s “negligence continues to rise as local law enforcement diverts limited resources to investigate thefts, respond to crimes, and assess property destruction,” according to a statement provided to The Columbus Dispatch.

Columbus police reported approximately 2,740 Hyundai and Kia model vehicles stolen over the first 10 months of 22, compared to 461 during the same time frame the previous year. That’s an average of 17 per day in a city with less than 1,000,000 people.

4. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee is where the Kia Boys started
Milwaukee, Wisconsin | Raymond Boyd via Getty Images

Despite being one of the first metropolitan areas to experience the Kia Boys crime spree, Wisconsin’s most-populous city waited until March 22, 2023, to file a lawsuit against the Korean automaker. “We are elated at this moment that we finally, finally got the word to move forward for a lawsuit,” said City Attorney Tearman Spencer.

A report from Fox 6 Now expressed an 800% increase in Hyundai and Kia car thefts in the city in 2021. Through the first three months of 2023, 677 were stolen—373 Kias and 304 Hyundais.

5. New York City, New York

The Kia Boys now have New York City suing Hyundai
New York City, New York | Kena Betancur/VIEWpress via Getty Images

In April 2023, America’s largest city joined the legal fight against Hyundai. “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,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement from NBC 4. “New Yorkers count on their Kia and Hyundai automobiles to earn a living,” he exclaimed.

The Big Apple saw an 890% increase in Kia thefts at the end of 2022, complimented by a 766% increase in Hyundai thefts in the preceding months because of the Kia Boys. Before the widespread criminal activity began, only 10 to 12 Hyundai and Kia cars were reported stolen in New York City monthly. However, it’s now well over 100.

6. San Diego, California

San Diego was hit by the Kia Boys
San Diego, California | Sam Hodgson Bloomberg via Getty Images

The San Diego City Attorney’s Office alleges that 146 Hyundai and Kia cars were stolen within their boundaries during the first six months of 2022, and 369 cars were taken in the last six months of the year.

“Making sure cars are not easy to steal keeps dangerous drivers in stolen vehicles off the road,” San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott said on the March 20, 2023 court filing, The Coast News. “Hyundai’s and Kia’s decisions to put cost savings and profits over public safety has had significant consequences for San Diego and its residents, leading to a substantial increase in vehicle thefts, reckless driving, related crime sprees, and public harm.”

7. Seattle, Washington

Washington's largest city was hit hard by the Kia boys
Seattle, Washington | David Ryder via Getty Images

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davidson filed a lawsuit in federal court on January 26, 2023, against Hyundai. According to MyNorthwest, Davidson exclaimed the situation as a “public nuisance,” adding that the police force has “stretched” their resources thin dealing with ongoing car thefts and other related vehicular crimes.

Regarding the uptick in crime, Davidson stated that Seattle had a 620% increase in reports of stolen Hyundais and Kias from six months prior. “That’s a dramatic, dramatic increase,” she said. For example, just 48 Hyundais and Kias were stolen in August 2022; four months later, the figure spiked to 197.

8. St. Louis, Missouri

Missouri's St. Louis has been hot by the Kia Boys
St Louis, Missouri | Visions of America/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Over the past year, St. Louis police received more than 4,500 reports of thefts of Kia or Hyundai vehicles. A city press release says the brands made up 61% of overall car thefts and 88% of all reported attempted vehicle thefts. To combat thinning law enforcement resources, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones announced their filing of a lawsuit against the automaker on March 27, 2023.

“Big corporations like Kia and Hyundai must be held accountable for endangering our residents and putting profit over people,” said Mayor Jones. “St. Louisans should not be forced to bear the cost of their negligence.”

Have any states sued Hyundai for the Kia Boys car thefts?

Although car thefts are criminal in nature, many are looking into their origin as a possible manufacturer defect. Recently, nearly two dozen attorneys general penned a letter to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration) seeking a federal recall. Led by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the political contingent believes the Korean automaker’s lack of immobilizers is an “unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.”

Speculation has risen regarding the company potentially cutting costs by not including engine ignition immobilizers as standard equipment.

In Minnesota, where much of the Kia Boys incidents originated, Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that he is launching an investigation into Hyundai’s practices. The effort will determine if the company “ran afoul of state consumer protection and public nuisance laws by not including industry-standard anti-theft technology in their cars and SUVs,” MPR News reports. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, 3,293 Hyundai and Kia cars were reported stolen in 2022, a nearly nine-fold year-over-year increase.

What has Hyundai done about the Kia Boys car thefts?  

Apart from plugging local law enforcement agencies with some steering wheel locks, Hyundai hasn’t done much to mitigate the ongoing issues, nor has it seemed like it has cared at all and is only “committed to the integrity of its products.”

To them, nothing is inherently wrong about their cars built before November 1, 2021. Hyundai senior group manager Ira Gabriel told Axios the lawsuits against the multinational brand are “improper and unnecessary.” Gabriel continued by asserting, “Owners of past models can also bring their vehicles to a local Hyundai dealer for the purchase and installation of a customized security kit.” Despite that, the company is rolling out a software update to its vehicles to enhance anti-theft protection—free of charge, by the way.

Hyundai modelModel yearsKia modelModel years
Elantra GT2013-2020Optima2011-2020
Santa Fe2013-2022Sedona2011-2021
Santa Fe Sport 2013-2018Seltos2021-2022
Santa Fe XL2019Sorento2011-2022
Sonata 2011-2019Soul2020-2022
Veloster2012-2017, 2019-2021
Genesis Coupe 2013-2014

Although the brands began adding factory immobilizers in 2021, AP reports that Kia built some 2022 model-year vehicles without them. But eagle-eyed viewers will notice that some of the models included in the table at the beginning of the articles aren’t included here. That’s because Hyundai has admitted that 15% of their cars “cannot accommodate the software updates.” Such is one of the reasons why the state attorneys general are calling on the NHTSA to step in.

Although the myriad of lawsuits filed means a continuously growing final sum, Hyundai could already be on the hook for $600 million in damages and court fees. But that’s for a five-digit figure of vehicles. In all, roughly 8.3 million Hyundai and Kia cars could be affected, sending the bill into the billions.


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