Hyundai and Kia have agreed to a more than $200 million settlement to address vulnerabilities in certain models that led to a sharp rise in thefts and prompted lawsuits nationwide.
Owners of certain models made between 2011 through 2022 are eligible to receive money for out-of-pocket losses, software upgrades and other reimbursements, attorneys appointed by the court announced Thursday.
Experts, prosecutors and local jurisdictions have said the lack of an anti-theft immobilizer in the affected models has allowed for the cars to be stolen with as little as a screwdriver and a USB cord. Fueled by a TikTok challenge, car thefts have nearly doubled in Baltimore this year over the same time last year, with Hyundai and Kia making up almost half of the stolen vehicles.
Earlier this month, the city filed a lawsuit against the automakers, alleging the rash in thefts has been a “public nuisance.” In a statement, Acting City Solicitor Ebony Thompson said the settlement announced Thursday does not impact the city’s lawsuit.
Attorneys at four law firms that were appointed to represent members of the class said in a release that the settlement is set to address multiple issues faced by the owners of 9 million vehicles — 4.5 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias.
“The settlement will provide benefits as soon as possible to those who have suffered out-of-pocket losses due to car thefts in Hyundai and Kia cars without immobilizers,” said Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman. “The agreement also offers upgrades to fix the lack of immobilizer at the heart of the issue, as well as payments to those who are not eligible for the upgrade.”
The Hyundai Motor Group acquired Kia in 1998, a year after the latter company filed for bankruptcy, but the two automakers operate independently.
Now, the companies will make payments up to $145 million for out-of-pocket losses. This means owners will be compensated for the cost of damages, “including total loss of vehicles up to $6,125, damage to vehicle and personal property up to $3,375,” the release said.
“We believe this settlement offers comprehensive, welcome relief for the class that will serve as a lesson to automakers to not overlook such integral, basic safety features,” said attorney Roland Tellis of the law firm Baron & Budd.
Vehicle owners of the following makes and models are also eligible for a software upgrade to effectively address the cars’ lack of an immobilizer.
Hyundai models: 2018-2022 Accent, 2011-2022 Elantra, 2013-2020 Elantra GT, 2018-2022 Kona, 2013-2022 Santa Fe, 2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport, 2019 Santa Fe XL, 2011-2019 Sonata, 2011-2022 Tucson, 2019-2021 Veloster, 2020-2021 Venue, 2013-2014 Genesis Coupe and 2020-2021 Palisade.
Kia models: 2011-2022 Kia Sportage, 2011-2022 Kia Sorento, 2021-2022 Kia K5, 2011-2021 Kia Sedona, 2014-2021 Kia Forte, 2012-2021 Kia Rio, 2021-2022 Kia Seltos, 2011-2020 Kia Optima and 2020-2022 Kia Soul.
As for owners of models that are not able to receive the software upgrade, they can receive up to $300 for the installation of a glass-breakage alarm, purchase of a steering wheel lock or “other aftermarket modifications designed to deter or prevent theft.”
Police departments in Baltimore City and surrounding counties have offered free wheel lock giveaways in an effort to stem these thefts.
Baltimore Banner reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article