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City of Buffalo files a lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai

The city has recorded 509 stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles in the first three months of 2023.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The City of Buffalo is taking a stand against Kia and Hyundai, joining seven other cities Thursday in filing multidistrict litigation seeking to hold the major auto corporations responsible for continual vehicle thefts that have plagued the city over the last few months.

“This has been a major public safety issue that continues to grow and get worse in our city,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. “We thought that this was the proper approach to hold these auto manufacturers, Kia and Hyundai, accountable.”

In a 43-page lawsuit, the seven cities are alleging Kia and Hyundai “placed profits over people and safety” by knowingly manufacturing, distributing, and marketing cars without anti-theft technology.

The suit also claims that while other companies evolved and installed immobilizing technology, Kia and Hyundai failed to keep up with the times, allowing their vehicles to be hotwired with just a USB, causing the popular Kia Challenge on social media to spread like a wildfire.

“Immobilizers are not new technology,” said Gretchen Freeman Cappio, partner at Keller Rohrback, the firm representing the city. “They've been around for 100 years, so it's particularly egregious that Hyundai and Kia have cut these corners here.”

According to the City of Buffalo, stolen Kia and Hyundai numbers have skyrocketed in recent months, from 462 all of last year to 509 in just the first three months of 2023 — putting immense pressure on Buffalo’s police department to respond 

“Policing isn't free,” Freeman Cappio said. “Sometimes we take it for granted, but it actually cost money for cities. It's one of the biggest budget items. Buffalo has to respond to thefts of these vehicles.”

The city is demanding the auto corporations be held accountable, calling for the installation of engine immobilizers and for these companies to foot the bill.

“We are hoping to be compensated for our damages,” Brown said. “We're also hoping that owners of these vehicles in the city of Buffalo who have had to suffer through their vehicles being stolen will be compensated.”

The lawyer representing these cities says cases from across the country are all being consolidated in Central District of California. She said she expects all complaints to be filed by early this summer.

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