City of Milwaukee considering lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai tied to the rash of car thefts

NOW: City of Milwaukee considering lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai tied to the rash of car thefts

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The City of Milwaukee is considering significant legal action against Kia and Hyundai tied to the rash of car thefts.

The Common Council has been discussing possible legal action for months, and now an alderman confirms the city attorney is looking to move forward.

3rd District Alderman Jonathan Brostoff said Kias and Hyundais are not operating as they should, and the city is looking to hold them accountable.

The city has an opportunity to correct the issue, but he said they need to go through the system to do so. "I'm excited to hear the City Attorney is looking to take the next step."

That next step is legal action.

Milwaukee officials have long said Kias and Hyundais are easy targets.

Car thieves appear to take advantage of the poorly designed starters and a lack of devices that would shut off the engine if stolen. Thousands of Kias and Hyundais are stolen every year from Milwaukee streets, and Alderman Jonathan Brostoff said the design flaws are causing real harm to the community.

Brostoff said, "Certainly the company has to take responsibility and step up, and we need to fight for our role in this because we're getting hurt, we're getting hurt bad."

Alderman Mark Borkowski said several law firms have expressed interest in pursuing legal action against the automakers.

But another Alderperson who wished to remain anonymous said no decision has been made yet and there is no timeline.

Last August the City of St. Louis threatened a similar lawsuit. A letter from the city attorney to Kia and Hyundai read they "failed to install engine immobilizers in many of their vehicles, and the respective failures have caused an epidemic of car thefts throughout the nation."

MPD crime stats show more than 8,000 cars were stolen in Milwaukee in 2022.

Several ideas have been floated to curb thefts -- some dealerships include steering locks with each new car; MPD gave some away last year- but the problem persists.

Brostoff said, "We need to take action, we need to take the fight to the people that, in some ways, are responsible for putting us in this situation, and we have to correct this as quickly as possible."

So far there has been no official debate in council about a lawsuit, but Brostoff says everyone agrees. "From the casual conversations I've had, I would say yeah, I think we're all on the same page and I think we're all looking for a solution. But this is a big piece of the puzzle right here."

Mayor Cavalier Johnson was in Washington Friday. His office said it would look into the possible lawsuit but did not share any more information after that.

And City Attorney Tearman Spencer did not respond to messages.

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