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Seattle, Washington's, city attorney has filed a lawsuit against car manufacturers Kia and Hyundai, alleging the companies are not doing enough to "abate public safety" hazards, according to a press release from the city.
The attorney's office is blaming the South Korean car giants for what they call a "failure to install anti-theft technology in some vehicles which has contributed to an exponential increase of Kia and Hyundai car theft" in Seattle and surrounding areas. The city is seeking damages.
The city's press material says that while the manufacturers are aware of the safety concerns spawning from a spike in vehicular crimes, the city says they have "not taken meaningful steps" to address the problems.
“Kia and Hyundai chose to cut corners and cut costs at the expense of their customers and the public. As a result, our police force has had to tackle a huge rise in vehicle theft and related problems with already stretched resources," says city attorney Ann Davison.
"Now Seattle taxpayers must shoulder the burden of the increase in theft,” she remarked, adding that “Kia and Hyundai need to take responsibility for the public safety hazard that they created.”
According to the city, thefts of Kia and Hyundai models increased by 363% and 503% respectively, from 2021-2022.
Comparing July 2022 to July 2021, the city claims that the Seattle Police Department reported a 620% increase in stolen cars of those makes.
Many reports from local outlets such as Fox 13 Seattle showcase waves of year-round car break-ins at varying locations. According to the outlet, auto thefts increased by 88% overall from 2021 to 2022.
A car dealership in Auburn, Washington, reported multiple car break-ins on its lot at the beginning of 2023, referring to the crime wave as a "plague."
"When we talked to the police department, they said they can’t chase," said the dealership's owner.
However, Seattle's police Chief Adrian Diaz says that "people know how easy it is to steal Hyundais and Kias, the Seattle Police Department has noticed a huge increase in the theft of these models.”
“From 48 reported thefts of Hyundais and Kias in August  to 197 in December," he continued.
"Sixty-four percent of those vehicles were later recovered within city limits, which shows they’re most likely being taken for short periods of time, often in order to commit other crimes," the chief explained.
The city seeks to compel the auto manufacturers to install anti-theft technology, which it claims is "industry standard."
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