City will sue Kia and Hyundai over increase in thefts in Rochester

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The City of Rochester says it will sue the makers of Kia and Hyundai to hold the companies responsible for the cost associated with the increase in car thefts.

Mayor Malik Evans announced on Monday that the city has retained outside legal counsel to launch a lawsuit against Kia America and Hyundai Motor America. This comes as cities across the country, including Buffalo, Cleveland, San Diego, and Seattle have launched similar lawsuits.

Leaders across the country have raised alarms over increasing car thefts because of videos circulating on TikTok showing people how to steal Kia and Hyundai models. Some of these stolen cars have been used to intentionally smash through buildings during burglaries. Last Thursday, a stolen Kia was found at the scene of a smash-and-grab at the Montage Music Hall.

In the first three months of 2023 alone, Rochester had a nearly 2,400% increase in thefts of Kias and Hyundais. The city says the automakers failed to add anti-theft technology so the cars are easy to hotwire with only a USB cable, as can be seen in TikTok videos. A lawsuit from the City of Buffalo makes a similar claim.

As of Monday, there have been around 1,230 car thefts in Rochester according to the RPD Open Data Portal. That’s more than all of last year, which ended with 1135 car thefts.

The city says the cases against the automakers will be coordinated in federal court in the Central District of California, where Kia and Hyundai have their U.S. headquarters.

“The costs to taxpayers of the City of Rochester are skyrocketing,” Mayor Evans said. “In law enforcement, property damage, waived impound fees, and public safety because of the decision by Kia and Hyundai to not install readily available anti-theft technology. These thefts are negatively impacting the quality of life of Rochester residents and the livelihoods of Rochester business owners.”

The city’s announcement comes less than a week after a Kia believed to be stolen drove recklessly over the lawns and sidewalk of Franklin High School. Also, in late March, four businesses were damaged in smash-and-grab burglaries around Dewey Avenue involving Kias and Hyundais. At least one of those cars was determined to be stolen.