February 15, 2024


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Newark, NJ – February 15, 2024 Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced today that the City of Newark has joined 19 other cities nationwide, including Chicago, Milwaukee, and New York, in suing the automakers Kia and Hyundai for intentionally failing to include engine immobilizers in their vehicles from 2011 to 2021. An engine immobilizer is anti-theft technology that makes a car more difficult to steal.

Newark’s suit aims to hold the automakers accountable for the steep rise in Kia and Hyundai thefts—amounting to a 1,246% increase between 2022 and 2023—directly caused by their failure to install immobilizers. In Newark and elsewhere, the surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts also led to an increase in associated violent offenses like reckless driving and armed robbery.

Newark’s complaint alleges that Kia and Hyundai knowingly failed to equip cars sold in the US from 2011 to 2021 with this vital anti-theft technology, which almost all other car manufacturers made a standard feature more than a decade ago. Further, Kia and Hyundai were aware that its security failures were exposed in a viral TikTok in early 2022, and were aware by mid-2022 that thefts of its vehicles had soared exponentially as a result. According to the lawsuit, these thefts “inherently endanger Newark citizens and heavily burden Newark’s already-strained resources. Yet in face of these harmful impacts, Hyundai and Kia have done nothing. Instead of accepting responsibility for their harmful products through a recall or some other widespread repair program, the manufacturers instead have left it to vehicle owners and local law enforcement to address the problem.”

“Kia and Hyundai are neglecting their responsibilities to their customers and our communities when they do not install this critical anti-theft technology,” Mayor Baraka said. “And because many of their models are perfect for low-income workers using their car to get to the job, this kind of neglect and indifference really adds insult to injury to those impacted by the loss of their cars and to other residents who experience a sense of lost security and safety. If Newark doesn’t defend itself against these huge corporations, no one will, so we are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with other cities that have had enough.”

“These two colossal automakers have failed to remedy their misconduct, refusing to provide the steering wheel locks and transponder chips demanded by the other suing cities,” said Newark Corporation Counsel Kenyatta Stewart. “Their failure to install these devices is in violation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 114, which requires vehicles’ motor starting systems and steering to be inoperable when the key is removed. Unconscionably, Hyundai and Kia have actually taken further advantage of the crisis by charging consumers for theft security kits. All of their actions are unacceptable in the City of Newark.”

The Chicago complaint, filed in August, alleges that Kia and Hyundai deceptively assured consumers that these vehicles possessed “advanced” safety features, despite knowing about this critical defect and its consequences.

“In 2023, the Newark Police Division reported a 99 percent increase in total auto thefts of all makes and models when compared to the prior year,” Public Safety Director Fritz Fragé said. “The influence of a social media car theft challenge, coupled with the gaping anti-theft loophole in certain Kia and Hyundai makes and models contributed to this unconscionable increase in our auto theft stats. Despite deploying our best practices and resources to mitigate this problem, it persists, leading Newark to join other cities in taking legal action that will hold the automakers accountable for the prohibitive costs to law enforcement and public safety.”

Once videos posted on social media exposed this defect, thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in Newark surged. Once videos posted on social media exposed this defect, thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in Newark surged. Thefts of these vehicles in the first 10 months of 2023 were 1,678 percent over 2022 statistics. Specifically, a total of 1,956 Hyundais and Kias were reported stolen in the first 10 months of 2023 while only 110 Hyundais and Kias were stolen in 2022.

In addition, the Newark Police Division was required to dedicate more than 19,824 auto theft suppression overtime hours to address this car theft surge in the first 10 months of 2023. That amounted to more than $1 million in overtime cost, which was more than the yearly auto theft suppression overtime costs of 2021 and 2022 combined.

Newark seeks damages from Kia and Hyundai for the automakers’ fraud, negligence, deceptive marketing practices, sale of defective products, unjust enrichment, and public nuisance, and seeks to reclaim expenses incurred by the city in responding to the wave of thefts caused by their knowing and intentional security failures.

Corporation Counsel Stewart, and Raymond M. Brown and Rachel E. Simon of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden PC are representing the City in the lawsuit.


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