Hyundai, Kia offers anti-theft upgrade to 8.3 million US autos

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA: Hyundai and Kia have announced that they will offer software upgrades to 8.3 million US vehicles to prevent car thefts using a method shown on TikTok and other social media channels.

The TikTok videos, which have spread online, show how to steal cars made from 2015 to 2019 without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the videos have resulted in at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities.

The automakers and NHTSA said the free upgrade will be offered for 3.8 million Hyundai and 4.5 million Kia vehicles in the US.

"The software 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 NHTSA said.

Two major insurance companies had stopped offering new policies for Hyundai and Kia vehicles at high risk of theft, the USA Today reported last month.

Many 2015-19 model year Hyundai and Kia vehicles have no electronic immobilizers, which are standard on nearly all vehicles made by other manufacturers and prevent break-ins and bypassing the ignition.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data show that in 2022, there were nearly twice as many Hyundai and Kia vehicles with US theft claims, compared to all other manufacturers among 2015-2019 vehicles.

The initial Hyundai upgrade, scheduled to be available by June, will cover more than 1 million 2017-2020 Elantra, 2015-2019 Sonata and 2020-2021 Venue model year vehicles.

Kia said it has begun notifying owners about the upgrade, which will be available to most owners over the next few months.

All Hyundai vehicles produced since November 2021 are equipped with an engine immobilizer as standard equipment.