Hyundai, Kia offer free software fix to combat wave of auto thefts

For some Hyundai models, the fix is available starting today; rollout for other cars will be this spring

Two automakers whose vehicles have been stolen in large numbers in Dayton and other U.S. cities due to a security flaw are offering car owners free software to help make it harder to steal their rides.

Hyundai and Kia said car owners can soon visit their dealerships to get free anti-theft software installed that should help stem a wave of auto thefts that have been linked to viral online videos that show how to steal certain models in a few simple steps.

“This is encouraging because it means the manufacturers are taking this problem seriously,” said Dayton police Lt. Randy Beane. “This is certainly a step in the right direction. We’re hopeful that this is able to reduce the number of thefts of Kias and Hyundais, however we don’t know the efficacy of this software update.”

Hyundai said it would begin offering software upgrades for nearly four million of its vehicles starting on Tuesday.

Kia is rolling out free software upgrades in a phased approach that should get underway later this month, potentially impacting 4.5 million of the company’s vehicles, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In the city of Dayton alone, police said they received 182 theft or attempted theft reports on Kias and Hyundais in the first eight months of 2022. Dayton police say thieves stole or tried to steal 67 cars of all models in just the first week of January 2023.

Hyundai said the software will help prevent theft by activating an “ignition kill” feature when the cars are locked with key fobs.

Hyundai and Kia vehicles that are vulnerable to theft have physical keys that are inserted into the ignition and lack immobilizer devices.

Online videos show how to engage the ignitions of these vehicles by breaking open the steering columns and inserting standard USB cables.

The software upgrades will be for vehicles that have insert-and-turn physical keys, and Hyundai owners will have to use their key fobs to unlock their vehicles and disable the ignition kill feature.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said software updates will extend the length of car alarm sounds from 30 seconds to one minute and will require car keys to be placed in the ignition switch to turn the vehicles on.

In a statement, Kia said it has developed enhanced security software to restrict the unauthorized operation of vehicle ignition systems on certain models not equipped with immobilizers.

“Kia has already started notifying owners about this free software upgrade and anticipates making it available to most owners of affected vehicles over the next few months,” the company said.

Hyundai said its software updates first will be rolled out to more than 1 million Elantras (model years 2017 to 2020); Sonatas (model years 2015 to 2019); and Venues (model years 2020 to 2021).

Hyundai said the upgrades should be available for remaining affected vehicles by June 2023. That will include other model-year Elentras and Sonatas and certain models of Accents, Konas, Genesis Coupes, Palisades, Santa Fes, Tucsons and Velosters.

The free upgrades will be available at Hyundai dealers and should take less than an hour to install, the company said.

Hyundai said vehicles that have received the upgrades will get window decals that tell potential thieves that the cars have enhanced anti-theft technology.

Hyundai said some models made between 2011 and 2022 without engine immobilizers are unable to accommodate the software upgrade.

But the company said it is working on a reimbursement program to repay car owners who purchase steering wheel locks.

“Hyundai will provide these customers with more detail in the very near future,” the company said.

This newspaper last year learned that there are more than 61,000 Kias and Hyundais registered with the state in the local Miami Valley region.

Hyundai anti-theft service campaign schedule

Phase 1, starting on Feb. 14, 2023

2017-2020 Elantras

2015-2019 Sonatas

2020-2021 Venues

Phase 2, starting June 2023

2018-2022 Accent

2011-2016 Elantra

2021-2022 Elantra

2018-2020 Elantra GT

2011-2014 Genesis Coupe

2018-2022 Kona

2020-2021 Palisade

2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport

2013-2022 Santa Fe

2019 Santa Fe XL

2011-2014 Sonata

2011-2022 Tucson

2012-2017, 2019-2021 Veloster

Source: Hyundai

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