Consumer Investigation: Kia won’t answer questions about one consumer’s out-of-pocket costs

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. Kia has agreed to a $200 million settlement to reimburse owners for expenses related to the theft of their cars.

But many owners lost thousands, and they want to know if the automaker will reimburse them for all their costs. I reached out to Kia and got an email saying the settlement still needs to be approved by a judge. After that, victims can submit their claims on a website.

But the spokesman for Kia didn’t answer my specific question about how much it’s going to pay the victims. And that’s the question plaguing owners like Imari Calloway.

When I met Imari in early May, her mother had to drop her off at work. Imari didn’t have a car, and she can no longer afford a rental car.

“It’s a real big inconvenience,” said Imari. “I have to work out with my parents how they’re going to get to work, like we have to work out stuff.”

Imari’s Kia was stolen just like hundreds of thousands of Kias and Hyundais across the country. Because the car lacks anti-theft systems, thieves are able to break the steering column and start the car with only a USB port. It happens in seconds. Police found Imari’s car the very night it was stolen, but it’s been sitting at the dealership for three months.

“We don’t know when the parts are coming in,” said Imari. “We know it’s fixable. That’s the only thing that we know.”

Her car needs little more than a steering column. But there’s now a national shortage because Kia and Hyundai owners across the country all need that same part.

“We’re reaching out to them,” said Imari. “We’re asking for updates on the car and updates on the parts, and they’re not getting back to us and hanging up on my mom.”

“There’s times I’ve held for 40 minutes and ask for a supervisor, and they hang up on you,” said Juanetia Calloway, Imari’s mother.

And every time Juanetia tried to contact Kia by email, she got this automated message: “Thank you for contacting Kia America. We are in receipt of your e-mail and one of our associates will get back to you shortly.”

“She’s paying a car note, car insurance, and insurance will cover the rental for 30 days, but after 30 days it’s out of pocket,” said Juanetia.

In fact, Imari shelled out $1,500 for car rentals, all the while she was still making car payments that came to $1,188 over three months, car insurance over that same time period was $825, and finally she was forced to buy another car. The down payment was $1,200. Her total out-of-pocket cost for this entire ordeal was $4,713.

But in the $200 million settlement proposal, Kia has promised up to $3,375 for insurance-related expenses, including car rental and other substitute transportation. But it’s not clear whether the total can exceed $3,375. Imari and her mom believe Kia should pay every dime. After all, Imari is not to blame for her stolen car.

“The only thing she did wrong was buy a Kia,” said Juanetia.

The settlement says Kia will reimburse you for the total loss of your car up to $6,125. So because Imari couldn’t get parts for her car and had to buy another, does she qualify for that amount? And what if some owners only have liability coverage and the $6,125 doesn’t cover the cost of the car? There are many questions left unanswered, and Kia still has some explaining to do.