Theft-Prone Hyundais, Kias Can Get Free Software Fix

TikTok challenge led to rash of stolen cars
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 15, 2023 6:05 PM CST
Hyundai, Kia Offer Fix on Theft-Prone Models
A Kia that was damaged after being stolen sits at an auto repair shop in Milwaukee in January 2021.   (Angela Peterson/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

Hyundai and Kia are rolling out software updates to stem a raft of auto thefts related to a TikTok challenge that authorities believe has led to at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities. The updates are free for millions of vehicles that are missing a key anti-theft device, an issue that was exploited on social media and led to rampant theft of the cars. The software being released updates the theft alarm software logic to extend the length of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute and requires the key to be in the ignition switch to turn the vehicle on, the AP reports.

About 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias are eligible for the software update, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday. Hyundai said updates begin Tuesday for nearly 4 million vehicles beginning with a million model year 2017-20 Elantra, 2015-19 Sonata and 2020-21 Venue vehicles. The software upgrade is scheduled to be available for the remaining eligible vehicles by June. "We have prioritized the upgrade's availability for owners and lessees of our highest-selling vehicles and those most targeted by thieves in order for dealers to service them first," said Randy Parker, CEO of Hyundai Motor America. Kia said it had already begun to update the software for some vehicles.

A TikTok social media challenge shows how to hot-wire Kia and Hyundai cars with a USB cord and a screwdriver. Hyundai says all models produced after Nov. 1, 2021, have immobilizers as standard equipment. Hyundai and Kia will start software updates later this month, with subsequent phases over the next several months. Hyundai will also provide window stickers to vehicle owners that alert would-be thieves that the vehicle has anti-theft protection. Vehicle owners can contact Hyundai at 800-633-5151 and Kia at 800-333-4542 for information.

(Read more Hyundai stories.)

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