ROCHESTER, NY Kia has agreed a $200 million settlement to reimburse owners for costs related to the theft of their cars.
But many owners have lost thousands and want to know if the automaker will reimburse them at all costs. I contacted Kia and received an email saying the settlement has yet to be approved by a judge. After that, victims can submit their claims on a website.
But the Kia spokesman didn’t answer my specific question about how much it will pay the victims. And that’s the question that worries owners like Imari Calloway.
When I met Imari in early May, her mother had to take her to work. Imari didn’t have a car and can no longer afford a rental car.
“It’s a really big inconvenience,” Imari said. “I have to work out with my parents how to get to work, like how we have to work things out.”
Imari’s Kia has been stolen, as have hundreds of thousands of Kias and Hyundais across the country. Since the car does not have anti-theft systems, thieves can smash the steering column and start the car using only a USB port. It happens in seconds. Police found Imari’s car the night it was stolen, but it had been at the dealership for three months.
“We don’t know when the parts will arrive,” Imari said. “We know it’s fixable. That’s all we know.”
Your car needs little more than a steering column. However, there is now a nationwide shortage as Kia and Hyundai owners across the country all need the same part.
“We address them,” said Imari. “We ask for updates on the car and parts but they don’t get back to us and they hang up on my mom.”
“Sometimes I’d wait 40 minutes and ask for a manager and they would hang up,” said Juanetia Calloway, Imari’s mother.
And every time Juanetia tried to contact Kia via email, she received this automatic message: “Thank you for contacting Kia America. We have received your email and one of our staff will be in touch shortly.”
“She pays a car bill, car insurance, and the insurance covers the rent for 30 days, but after 30 days it’s out of pocket,” Juanetia said.
In fact, Imari spent $1,500 on renting a car while still making $1,188 in mortgage payments over a three-month period, auto insurance was $825 over the same period, and eventually forced her out was to buy another car. The deposit was $1,200. Her total cost for this whole ordeal came to $4,713.
But in the $200 million settlement proposal, Kia has pledged up to $3,375 for insurance-related expenses, including car rentals and other replacement transportation. However, it is not clear if the grand total can exceed $3,375. Imari and her mother believe Kia should pay every penny. After all, Imari is not to blame for her stolen car.
“The only thing she did wrong was to buy a Kia,” said Juanetia.
By comparison, Kia says it will reimburse you for a total loss of your car up to $6,125. Is Imari entitled to this amount because she couldn’t get parts for her car and had to buy a new one? And what if some owners only have liability insurance and the $6,125 doesn’t cover the cost of the car? Many questions remain unanswered and Kia still has a lot to explain.