© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

City of Milwaukee files lawsuit against Kia, Hyundai

people standing on courthouse steps
Maayan Silver
Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer (middle) speaks at a press conference at the Federal District Courthouse in Milwaukee on Wednesday. He is flanked by Alderwoman Milele Coggs (L) and Deputy City Attorney Robin Pederson (R).

The Milwaukee City Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Kia and Hyundai Motors in federal court. The city alleges that the companies failed to install anti-theft devices in their cars and that this caused needless damage to city residents.

The filing follows similar lawsuits around the country, including in San Diego and Cleveland. City Attorney Tearman Spencer held a press conference at the Federal District Court in Milwaukee.

“In my estimation, all the problems emanated out of Milwaukee,” said Spencer. “This is ground zero, the epicenter of the causes and problems that we've been experiencing throughout the country.”

There have been thousands of thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars in Milwaukee in the past few years. The city gained some notoriety for the problem when car thieves posted videos on YouTube and TikTok under the hashtag #thekiaboyz with tips on how to break into and hotwire the cars. They also posted videos of themselves driving recklessly on school property or in high-speed chases with police.

A Seattle law firm will litigate the current lawsuit against the car companies along with local counsel from Milwaukee. It’s part of a multi-district lawsuit with other cities nationwide. Spencer said the lawsuit will not cost the city any money. But, he hoped the suit will end with some compensation for taxpayers.

“Some of the action that occurred does not necessarily mean you have to own a Kia,” he said. “There have been deaths associated with Kias, stolen vehicles. There have been quite a bit of city damage caused by it. You have damages from the [Milwaukee Police Department] having to respond, fire having to respond. So, from every aspect that you can imagine there is damage.”

Spencer hoped that Milwaukee will be chosen as a primary plaintiff in the lawsuit, which could bring additional benefits if there’s a settlement. Last month, Hyundai and Kia announced a free anti-theft software update to car owners and are offering steering wheel locks.

Kia responded Wednesday that lawsuits against it by municipalities are without merit. It said it continues to work with law enforcement to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it.

Kia has provided a link for customers to get for more information on the upgrade or about getting a steering wheel lock.

Maayan is a WUWM news reporter.
Related Content