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Kia and Hyundai owners who had their cars stolen can get settlement money

Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia have agreed to pay $200 million to settle a class-action lawsuit from owners who had their vehicles stolen in a nationwide rash of car thefts.

The lawsuit, filed last August, alleged that Kia and Hyundai sold car models from 2011 to 2022 that did not include immobilizers —a standard feature that prevents the engine from starting unless the key is present. Word of the missing immobilizers sparked a TikTok trend called the "Kia Challenge," in which thieves stole millions Kia and Hyundai vehicles often within 90 seconds, attorneys representing the owners said in a statement. 

Up to $145 million from the settlement funds will be used to reimburse owners who had their vehicles stolen or damaged, the attorneys said Thursday. 

"Our goal in finalizing this settlement was to leave no one in the dark," Steve Berman of Seattle firm Hagens Berman said in a statement. "The owners of these cars have experienced enough upset, and we worked to achieve a settlement that covers many types of losses — from those who were lucky enough to have never had their theft-prone car stolen, to those whose stolen cars were totaled completely due to Hyundai and Kia's negligence."

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One of several steps taken

The settlement is one of several steps Kia has made to address the issue along with "providing a free security software upgrade and distributing over 65,000 steering-wheel locks," John Yoon, Kia America's chief legal officer said in a statement. 

About 3.8 million Hyundai cars and 4.5 million Kia cars are eligible for the software update.

Under the settlement, any owner whose vehicle isn't compatible with the software update can purchase another anti-theft device, such as a steering wheel lock, and be reimbursed by Kia or Hyundai for up to $300. The Korean automakers said they've also sent owners tens of thousands of free steering wheel locks to help prevent thefts. 

"We appreciate the opportunity to provide additional support for our owners who have been impacted by increasing and persistent criminal activity targeting our vehicles," Jason Erb, chief legal officer, Hyundai Motor North America said in a statement.

The thefts have been linked to at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About 9 million vehicles have been impacted by the rash of thefts — including Hyundai Elantras and Sonatas as well as Kia Fortes and Souls, lawyers and the automakers said Thursday. 

The rise in thefts and accidents prompted attorneys general in 17 states last month to urge the federal government to recall millions of Kia and Hyundai vehicles. The automakers snubbed pleas for a recall and instead opted to provide the free software updates. Kia said last month that more than 165,000 customers have had the software installed, and over 2 million owners have been contacted about it. 

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