Chicago Sues Car Manufacturers for Making Cars Too Easy to Steal 

Chutima Chaochaiya /
Chutima Chaochaiya /

In the latest edition of “you can’t make this stuff up,” Democratic Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson is suing two car manufacturers for their role in the escalating crime sprees in his city. 

Kia and Hyundai have been accused of “sheer negligence” for not installing “industry-standard immobilizers” in many of their automobiles. Johnson is claiming that this “sheer negligence” is resulting in more stolen cars in the beleaguered city. 

After social media platforms publicized the missing “advanced auto-theft” technology, the cars were targeted by even more criminals, resulting in a rise from 500 vehicle thefts of the economy autos in the first half of 2022 to more than 3000 in the last half of the year. Hyundai and Kia models accounted for more than half of all auto thefts in Chicago. 

Johnson notes that car theft affects low-to-middle-class workers who don’t have alternative transportation to their jobs when their cars have been stolen. Johnson publicly blamed the car manufacturers, stating, “The failure of Kia and Hyundai to install basic auto-theft prevention technology in these models is sheer negligence, and as a result, a citywide and nationwide crime spree around automobile theft has been unfolding right before our eyes.” 

He specifically noted that both Kia and Hyundai “deceptively assured consumers” that the vehicles had advanced safety features, making them culpable in the rise in auto-thefts in Chicago.  

Johnson claims that the stolen cars were more than an inconvenience for owners. The cars were used to commit crimes like armed robbery, reckless driving, and murder.  

At the center of the controversy was the absence of “engine immobilizers” in Kia and Hyundai’s base models. An engine immobilizer is an electronic system that prevents a vehicle’s engine from starting unless the correct key or proper electronic authentication signal is present. Even if a would-be thief gains physical entry to the vehicle, the engine won’t start without the proximity of the key or fob. 

The ease with which these cars can be stolen has resulted in many insurance companies declining to provide car insurance for these models. 

Engine immobilizers have become a standard feature in the automotive industry but were not installed in economy cars like Hyundai and Kia base models. The South Korean auto manufacturers did not equip their lower-priced models with the technology until late 2021.

But Johnson is late to the party. In May, Kia and Hyundai settled a $200 million class-action lawsuit in favor of compensating car owners of more than two dozen vehicle models for financial loss and inconvenience resulting from the theft of their autos. While the settlement is awaiting approval, the proposed compensation will reimburse owners for the physical theft of the vehicle as well as costs of traffic tickets incurred by the thieves and the cost of renting a replacement vehicle. 

Additionally, liberal cities like New York and Milwaukee filed similar lawsuits in March of 2023. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined calls for cars to be recalled and retrofitted with upgraded safety features, stating that the situation didn’t meet the criteria for such drastic measures.  

The South Korean automakers willingly offered free installation of anti-theft features, including a $300 glass breakage alarm for autos that can’t be upgraded to more effective theft-control measures. 

But for Johnson, the inability to control crime in his city needs to be answered for by someone, anyone, other than himself and his own ineffective policies. Kia and Hyundai are scapegoats to be easily blamed for the mayor’s inability to hold criminals accountable for their own actions. 

The Democratic Mayor Johnson was elected in April of 2023 to replace outgoing mayor Lori Lightfoot. He eked out a narrow victory over the more moderate Paul Vallas, running on a progressive platform destined to drive the final nail in the coffin of a once-great city. He is widely considered to be even worse for Chicago than his predecessor. 

During his campaign, Johnson said, “Let’s take this bold progressive movement around these United States of America. Chicago, we can show the country, we can show the world what’s possible when we stand on our values.” 

And that is one promise he has kept. Under his leadership, crime has risen out of control. It is truly an example of what a “bold progressive movement” has in store for cities across the nation when liberals “stand on their values.” 

In pre-progressive policy soft-on-crime America, locking a car was an effective deterrent to most car theft. When criminals knew they could face jail time for crimes, they were less likely to commit them. But in today’s liberal landscape, thieves aren’t responsible for stealing cars. 

The cars were asking for it.