NYC sues Hyundai for negligence in wake of TikTok car thefts

The city says the automaker's negligence contributed to a public nuisance.

huettenhoelscher via Getty Images

Last month, Hyundai agreed to pay $200 million to settle a class action lawsuit in the wake of a car theft challenge that went viral on TikTok, YouTube and other platforms. The deal promised to pay out about $145 million to US Hyundai and Kia owners who had their cars stolen or damaged by a theft attempt — but the settlement didn't put the matter to rest. New York City has announced that it's now suing the automaker for negligence and being a public nuisance.

Specifically, the city accuses the automaker of choosing to "sacrifice public safety for profits" by eschewing common anti-theft technology from certain US model Kia and Hyundai vehicles. New York City alleges this was a market specific choice, noting that Hyundai and Kia vehicles sold in European and Canadian markets do, in fact, have vehicle immobilizers installed "because regulations there expressly require them."

This led to a rise in thefts after the "Kia Challenge" appeared on social media earlier this year — with videos demonstrating how certain Hyundai vehicles can be quickly hot-wired using a simple USB cord.

The result, the city says, was unprecedented, with a 660% increase in Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts in the first four months of 2023 when compared to the previous year. New York City says this has resulted in not only more reports of theft, but other safety issues, including reckless driving, and violent altercations between thieves and vehicle owners, all of which it claims has made New York City less safe and caused undue burden on police resources. New York City is requesting a trial by jury and is seeking punitive and compensatory damages.