St. Paul man files class action lawsuit over Kia theft vulnerability

A St. Paul man who had his Kia stolen in August has filed a federal class action lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai Motors over an exploit that makes those vehicles more susceptible to being stolen.

The lawsuit was filed Friday by LaShaun Johnson after his vehicle was stolen in August. According to the lawsuit, police told him the thieves used a screwdriver to disassemble the ignition column and start the vehicle. Now, he's without a vehicle "for months" as he waits on replacement parks.

FOX 9 has reported about the spike in thefts of Kia and Hyundais in recent months due to the exploit that police say allows thieves to steal the vehicles with as little as a screwdriver or USB drive.

In July, FOX 9 reported that Kia and Hyundais had become the most stolen vehicles in Minneapolis while in St. Paul thefts of Kias were up 1,300 percent over the previous year.

Attorneys blame the thefts on a lack of an "engine immobilizer," a device that prevents the vehicle from running when the key is not near the vehicle. The lawsuit claims that it violates federal regulations while pointing out that neither Kia nor Hyundai has issued a recall to add the device to vehicles affected by the exploit.

The lawsuit cites some of FOX 9's coverage in its arguments, including the story of a Minneapolis woman whose Kia had been targeted three times by thieves.

"If Defendants’ vehicles included an engine immobilizer then they would be more difficult to steal because a thief could not start or move the vehicle without the vehicle’s key," the lawsuit reads. "Federal regulations require that a vehicle’s engine cannot be started and that a vehicle cannot move when the vehicle’s key is not present."

To make matters worse for Johnson, while his Kia is out of commission due to the theft, his backup vehicle is a 2013 Hyundai Sonata.