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Just as Seattle sues over car theft, another Hyundai is stolen

Seattle is suing carmakers Hyundai and Kia for an ignition issue that makes some of their vehicles targets for theft. Both say they are working on software fixes now.

Consuelo Crow looked out her window Tuesday morning to where she parked her Hyundai Elantra.

"There was nothing but a pile of shiny glass," she said. All that was left were the scattered remains of what had been her car window. The car itself had clearly been stolen.

Hundreds of Seattle residents know all too well the feeling Crow had that winter morning. Hyundais and Kias were stolen 197 times in December alone, according to the Seattle City Attorney's office.

RELATED: Seattle sues Kia and Hyundai after rise in car thefts

But this was the first week Crow heard of the viral videos circulating that show how easy it is to steal Hyundai and Kia models made from 2011 to 2021.

It takes a screwdriver and USB cord, the videos boast, and it's led to an uncontrolled wave of joyrides and complete theft of the cars in the past year.

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison says the companies could prevent theft by recalling these cars and installing common anti-theft devices, but that they've failed to do so. She is suing both companies in federal court.

"Manufacturers have chosen to not install what is almost universal in anti-theft technology in these models of their cars, when it has been shown how easy it is to steal them, and so really it is making our roads less safe," Davison told KUOW.

From July 2021 to July 2022, Seattle had a 620% increase in reported thefts of Hyundais and Kias.

"As a result of that, our police force has had to tackle a huge rise in vehicle theft with already stretched resources," Davison says. "And now, frankly, Seattle taxpayers are shouldering the burden of that increase in theft."

The same companies are already facing a consumer lawsuit over the theft issue, in Iowa.

Hyundai believes the lawsuit by Seattle is improper and unnecessary, says spokesperson Ira Gabriel.

He says they are responding to the increasing thefts by making engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021. Additionally, he says, Hyundai has "an upcoming software update scheduled to be available beginning next month and provided at no cost to customers. Hyundai is also providing free steering wheel locks, as available, to select law enforcement agencies across the country, including in the Seattle area, for distribution to local residents who own or lease affected models. Owners may also bring their vehicles to a local Hyundai dealer for the purchase and installation of a customized security kit."

Kia is also making steering wheel locks available to customers, for free, through "interested local law enforcement agencies."

A company statement says that while no car can be made completely theft-proof, Kia continues to do "development and testing of enhanced security software designed to restrict operation of the vehicle’s ignition system. Kia has started notifying owners of certain models of the availability of this software upgrade at no cost."

What should owners do?

The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force recommends installing your own anti-theft device, such as a steering wheel lock or kill switch.

Crow got an update on her own vehicle Wednesday. It's been located, but appears to be undrivable and a total loss. This isn't the first time she has dealt with vehicle property crime. So, even before her Elantra was found, she said that if she got the car back, "It's never the same."