Chicago Blames Car Makers as Thieves Livestream Thefts

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has a plan to help tackle soaring car thefts in the city: Sue the automakers.

(Bloomberg) — Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has a plan to help tackle soaring car thefts in the city: Sue the automakers. 

The city has filed a civil suit against Kia Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. for failing to include engine immobilizers in various models, causing “a steep rise in vehicle thefts, reckless driving, property damage, and a wide array of related violent crimes in Chicago,” according to a statement on Thursday. 

Thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars have surged across the country after social media users exposed security flaws, sparking what’s been termed the “Kia Challenge” where people livestream their larceny. At least 20 state attorneys in the US have urged Hyundai and Kia to enhance anti-theft measures, while New York Mayor Eric Adams has blamed social media for corrupting young people.

Tiktok Car Thefts Spur Hyundai, Kia to Offer Free Steering Locks

Chicago has been particularly hard hit by vehicle theft, which took off during the pandemic and added to broader concerns over spiraling crime, including carjackings. 

More than 19,000 cars have been stolen in Chicago this year, double last year’s figure and three times more than in 2019. Some 8,350 Kia and Hyundai vehicles were stolen in the second half of 2022 in Chicago, from just 500 in the first six months of the year, according to the city.

“A citywide and nationwide crime spree around automobile theft has been unfolding right before our eyes,” Johnson, who’s been in power for just over 100 days, said in a statement.

Hyundai said in response that it’s committed to helping customers and communities affected by the theft of vehicles not equipped with push-button ignitions and engine immobilizers. Engine immobilizers, meanwhile, are now standard on all Hyundai vehicles produced since November 2021. 

Failure to deal with violence is one of the main reasons former Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her job this year. She was the first mayor to lose a re-election bid since 1983. 

–With assistance from David Welch.

(Updates with Hyundai response in penultimate paragraph.)

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