SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Just days after three teens were shot inside a stolen Hyundai, the City of Syracuse decided to join in on a multi-city lawsuit against the manufacturers of Hyundai and Kia for creating a public safety nuisance.

This follows the large uptick in stolen vehicles in the last year in Syracuse. Multiple notable incidents have occurred that involved stolen cars, including the two teens who were shot and killed by a deputy after stealing a car and trying to run the deputy over back in September.

“From January through August of 2023, Syracuse recorded 250 thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles-a 510% increase from the 41 stolen Hyundais and Kias reported for January to August of 2022, and a 421% increase from the 48 stolen in the same period in 2021,” said the lawsuit documentation obtained by NewsChannel 9.

There is a multitude of videos online now that can teach anyone who has access to the internet how to break into and steal these cars.

“The City’s action says Hyundai and Kia cars are stolen at alarming rates in Syracuse because they lack the basic anti-theft technology, also known as engine immobilizers, that has been used by other carmakers for decades to effectively prevent rampant vehicle theft,” said Mayor Ben Walsh’s Office.

From 2020 to 2022, Hyundais and Kias accounted for approximately 9% to 11% of all vehicle thefts in Syracuse. In contrast, Hyundais and Kias have accounted for approximately 43% of all motor vehicle thefts in Syracuse between January 1 and August 31, 2023.

During the same timeframe this year, Hyundai and Kia vehicles have also accounted for 83% of attempted vehicle thefts.

Syracuse Police Department via Kia and Hyundai lawsuit documentation

The lawsuit was filed by Syracuse in the Central District of California, which is where the litigation against Hyundai and Kia thefts have been centralized.

Syracuse filed its lawsuit in the Central District of California, where the litigation against Hyundai and Kia for thefts has been centralized. A Federal Magistrate in California on Monday accepted consolidating Syracuse’s action with the claims of 24 other governmental entities, including Buffalo, Rochester, New York City, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Seattle, and St. Louis, among others, according to the mayor’s office.

“As we continue to do everything in our power to hold car thieves accountable, we are asking the Court to hold the makers of Hyundai and Kia accountable too,” said Mayor Walsh. “The people of Syracuse and communities across the nation should not be subjected to the devastating consequences of Hyundai and Kia’s preventable failures.” 

According to the City’s lawsuit, “The skyrocketing rate of Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts has drastically impacted city and police resources for Plaintiff. Plaintiff’s residents are subjected to increasingly dangerous conditions on their streets, as car thieves (many of them teenagers) are taking advantage of Hyundai’s and Kia’s failures and engaging in reckless driving, endangering Plaintiff’s employees, residents, and property.”

This lawsuit involves both owners of and those who lease Kia and Hyundai cars, insurers who have paid out claims as a result of the Hyundai and Kia thefts, and governmental entities. The City of Syracuse has now been forced to expend law enforcement and other resources to address the significant public safety threat posed by these vehicles.

The rise of Hyundai and Kia theft incidents has caused Syracuse law enforcement officers to spend more of their time responding to such incidents. Between January and August of 2023, the Syracuse Police Department spent nearly 500 hours responding to calls reporting stolen Hyundais and Kias which is more than the total time spent responding to thefts of the same vehicles for 2020 through 2022 combined. This work, while critical, necessarily diverts officer time from other important duties, such as policing streets to deter crime and responding to and investigating other crimes, not to mention the time other bureaus and agencies spend investigating and prosecuting these thefts and crimes committed with these stolen vehicles.

Lawsuit documentation

According to the mayor’s office, the city’s lawsuit asks the court to require the manufacturer to abate the public nuisance, create a relief fund for automobile theft prevention and to pay compensatory and punitive damages.