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Yonkers joins 10 cities suing Kia & Hyundai over issues that make vehicles vulnerable to thieves

Yonkers joins cities suing Kia & Hyundai over security issues
Yonkers joins cities suing Kia & Hyundai over security issues 01:51

YONKERS, N.Y. -- Stolen Hyundais, like the one a driver crashed into 10 people in Midtown on Tuesday, have been frustrating car owners and detectives alike, and not just in New York City.

CBS New York investigative reporter Tim McNicholas found that one Westchester County city has quietly joined a growing list of cities that are suing Hyundai and Kia.

From the stolen Hyundai in a deadly crash in Washington Heights in July to the one that struck 10 people Tuesday on the East Side...

"They're not really thinking about the consequences," Yonkers Police Commanding Officer Kenneth Lacey said.

Lacey doesn't want Yonkers to be the site of the next crash.

"We've seen an over 1,100 percent increase in just stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles," he said. "This has had a tremendous effect on our resources. It has really impacted us."

That's why earlier this summer, Yonkers joined 10 other cities that are suing Kia and Hyundai. One of those other cities is New York, where Mayor Eric Adams has decried a TikTok challenge in which kids show off how they exploit vulnerabilities in certain Hyundais and Kias to hotwire the cars and take them on dangerous joy rides.

CBS New York reported in July that a spike in the thefts of those cars prompted the NYPD to launch a new unit with new investigators focused on car thefts.

"It's obviously a massive issue, a massive problem for officers involved, for law enforcement and for the public at large," said David Sarni, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Police Commissioner Edward Caban released the following statement:

"For far too long, New York City has lacked a definition for what constitutes a police vehicle pursuit. I have appointed working group to ensure clear and non-duplicative reporting of these encounters. The group's work will balance our mission to stop car theft, illegal drivers, and ghost cars with ensuring that NYPD officers get all the training and technology they need to keep New Yorkers safe."

"Since we started seeing this increase, we've seen, we've used more than 600 hours of police resources combating this," Lacey said.

Kia sent CBS New York the following statement:

"Kia continues to take action to help our customers by making it more difficult for criminals to use methods of theft recently popularized on social media to steal certain vehicle models. In addition to announcing an agreement in May that will allow customers who have been impacted by vehicle thefts to receive additional benefits, Kia has already notified all eligible owners and lessees of these vehicle models – over 3 million total – that they are able to receive the free security software upgrade that we have developed. The upgrade is designed to restrict the operation of the vehicle's ignition system should a potential criminal attempt to steal a locked vehicle without the key, and dealers who have installed the upgrade report successful installation takes under an hour to complete. We have established a dedicated website where eligible owners can learn more about how to receive the free upgrade:

"We also continue to provide steering wheel locks to owners of impacted vehicles that are not eligible for the software upgrade at no cost to them. Customers can obtain free, Kia-provided locks through their local law enforcement, or they can request a steering wheel lock from Kia directly through the dedicated website. To date, we have distributed more than 188,000 locks and we will continue to provide them as they are needed. 

"Lawsuits filed by municipalities against Kia are without merit. Like all Kia vehicles, the specific models at issue in this case are subject to and comply fully with the requirements outlined in applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 114 that governs theft protection measures.

"Kia has been and continues to be willing to work cooperatively with law enforcement agencies in Yonkers and the greater NYC area to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it, and we remain committed to supporting our customers and to vehicle security."

Hyundai sent CBS New York the following statement:

"Hyundai is committed to the comprehensive actions we are undertaking to assist customers and communities affected by the persistent theft of certain vehicles not equipped with push-button ignitions and engine immobilizers.  Our dealers across the country are maximizing the number of anti-theft software installations that can be performed on a daily basis, contributing to steadily increasing completion rates, which we report to NHTSA weekly.   Hyundai recently piloted a mobile service center in Washington, D.C. to further scale and speed installation of the software upgrade (Link).  We remain committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products, all of which are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements.  Engine immobilizers are now standard on all Hyundai vehicles produced as of November 2021. For more information, please visit"

The lawsuits, including the one from Yonkers, seek not just a fix to the problem, but compensation.

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