Call for Action: Should a dealership be liable if your car is stolen off its lot?

MADISON, Wis. — A Madison area woman is calling for action over her stolen Kia and how a local dealership dealt with the issue.

Adele Mack says thieves attempted to take her Kia Optima and damaged the car in the process four months ago. Today, she says she’s still without her vehicle, despite all that time, because it was further damaged in an actual theft from the dealership she took it to in order to fix the car and keep it safe.

“My car had flashing lights around it,” she said. “All the work had been done, all they needed to do was, the last little step was starting the car really.”

Mack says when she first took her car to Russ Darrow Kia in Madison, she requested they keep it inside to avoid what she considered an impending theft, and she says they assured her they would. One week later, she received a call from the dealership.

“They said my car had been mangled,” she said. “[The thieves] took it off-roading, and they took it down the bike path.”

We drove by Russ Darrow and saw the car’s damage for ourselves. It was still sitting outside.

Mack says she asked the dealership to cover the cost of the new damage.

“Their insurance adjuster came back and said they were not going to be held responsible for anything that happened to their car from being stolen off their lot,” she says of that conversation. “It was not their fault, they didn’t care.”

A Russ Darrow spokesperson confirmed to us the theft and that their insurance company would not cover the cost but said the dealership was willing to pay for Mack’s deductible so her insurance would deal with the problem. Mack said they offered her a rental for a few weeks before asking for it back. She told us she wants them to take more responsibility.

“It’s crazy and it’s wrong and I can’t believe a business would run that way,” Mack said. “It’s insane.”

Russ Darrow Kia refused to go on camera after multiple requests and did not respond to a slew of emailed questions, including: why won’t your insurance cover Adele’s damage? What’s your security plan like to avoid this from happening again? Do you use wheel locks to try and protect cars from theft, particularly the ones you don’t own?

The company did provide the below statement in an email to News 3 Now:

“The Russ Darrow Group is working to resolve this ongoing issue to the satisfaction of our customer, just as we do with any customer issue. Our dealerships have measures in place to help secure all inventory, both customer vehicles as well as our own, to the best of our ability. Vehicle theft is an issue, not isolated to this incident only. The Russ Darrow Group has been doing business in the Madison market for decades by working with our customers and providing for their automotive needs.”

You’ve likely heard about the problems surrounding certain models of Kias and Hyundais. They’re missing a key anti-theft device, and viral social-media videos show thieves how to exploit the issue. Madison police have documented the problem all summer long.

“I can tell you people are kind of afraid that [they’re] going to buy a newer vehicle, and you think it’s a safe investment for you and come to find out it has this vulnerability,” said Officer Hunter Lisko of the issue.
And an issue it is. The Highway Loss Data Institute shows these models have a theft claim rate of 2.2 per 1,000 insured vehicles. The rest of the industry combined is less than half, at 1.2.

“Obviously it’s really concerning,” Officer Lisko said. “Prevention is going to be our best avenue with this.”
Madison police have teamed up with Hyundai to hand out hundreds of wheels locks this summer and still have some available if customers are looking for a free way to protect their car. You can also find them on Amazon for relatively cheap.

“$30 to $60 on a wheel lock is going to save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in headaches in vehicle damage if your car was stolen,” Officer Lisko said.