POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A Polk County woman has joined a national class action lawsuit against Hyundai Motor America and Kia America Inc. alleging “blatant breach of public trust” led to a surge in thefts of certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles sold without an engine immobilizer.
Stephanie McQuarrie of Davenport, Florida leads the list of car owners demanding accountability from Hyundai and Kia after her 2015 Kia Optima was stolen last month by teens playing out the so-called “Kia Challenge” on social media.
[TRENDING: Cooler weather on the way. Here’s how low temps will go | Orlando FreeFall will be torn down. Here’s what we know about the timeline | Become a News 6 Insider]
“They drove from Davenport to I-4, Exit 68 with the emergency brake on the whole time,” McQuarrie told News 6. “The car was never taken out of first gear.”
McQuarrie said that joy ride ruined the transmission and will cost roughly $6,000 to repair.
She told News 6 she had no idea an engine immobilizer had never been installed in her vehicle.
Hyundai confirmed some earlier models, without a push-button ignition, do not have an engine immobilizer.
California attorney Jonathon Michaels, founder of MLG Attorneys at Law, is representing McQuarrie and dozens more who are demanding fair compensation for the missing device.
Michaels said a basic USB cable and a screwdriver is “all you need” to bypass the ignition and drive away.
“We want an immediate recall on both vehicles,” Michaels told News 6. “There needs to be compensation to all the vehicle owners who have been damaged by this.”
The “Kia Challenge” has already gathered more than 31 million views on the TikTok social media site alone.
Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily:
A spokesman for Hyundai told News 6 the company “does not discuss pending litigation,” however the company has released a glass-break sensor security kit available to consumers for about $170.
“We remain concerned about the increase in thefts of certain Hyundai vehicles,” he said. “Hyundai is also developing a software update to further secure these targeted vehicles.”
The company expects the software update to become available for certain vehicles “in the first half of 2023, with updates for other vehicles following thereafter.”
The cost of installation will vary, but according to Michaels’ staff it could cost as much as $500.
Michaels told News 6 a recall would place the burden of cost on Kia and Hyundai, not on the consumers.
On Tuesday, Michaels’ firm called on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to take legal action against the automakers for failing to install engine immobilizers on their vehicles.
“A lawsuit by the state of California would join a cascade of litigation already initiated against the automakers,” he said.
In the lawsuit filed earlier this month, Michaels argued that the cost to repair the steering column and damage from the theft can exceed $10,000.
According to the lawsuit, Kia vehicles manufactured from 2011 to 2021 and Hyundai vehicles manufactured from 2015 to 2021 that are equipped with traditional key ignitions are vulnerable.
Michaels’ firm found that there were 11.5 million vehicles sold by Kia and Hyundai during the years in question, with nearly all of them having the same starter system.
Hyundai would not confirm those numbers, or anything related to the lawsuit.
Hyundai corporate spokesman Ira Gabriel told News 6 in November 2021 “engine immobilizers became standard on all Hyundai vehicles produced.”
The immobilizer kits are available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar authorized installers across the country.
Customers who have questions can contact the Hyundai Customer Care Center at: 800-633-5151.
If you have any additional questions or issues, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the class action lawsuit, go to defectattorney.com.