Hyundai and Kia’s anti-theft software update falls short as vehicle theft problem persists

It has been three months since Hyundai and Kia released a software security update in response to a series of TikTok videos demonstrating how to steal certain older models of their vehicles using a USB cable and a screwdriver.

However, according to the Associated Press, the update has not fully resolved the issue.

Following the viral TikTok videos, major insurance companies began refusing to insure these vulnerable models, and cities like Seattle even filed lawsuits against Hyundai and Kia.

The problem became more embarrassing when an unmarked undercover NYPD officer’s Kia Optima was stolen and taken for a joyride.

In February, the automakers released a free anti-theft software upgrade for a total of 8.3 million vehicles, including 3.8 million from Hyundai and 4.5 million from Kia.

Unfortunately, the latest data suggests that thieves are still finding success. Police in various cities, including Minneapolis, Cleveland, St. Louis, Seattle, Atlanta, and New York, have reported significant year-over-year increases in theft reports for Hyundai and Kia vehicles through April.

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This raises questions as to whether owners are not downloading the free software security patch or if thieves have discovered a workaround. Regardless, the situation is alarming. Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara expressed his concern, stating that the problem is expanding and is worse than ever before. In Minneapolis alone, there have been 1,899 thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in 2023, nearly 18 times the number during the same period last year.

Unfortunately, official nationwide theft data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is not yet available for the first part of 2023. However, police departments are already indicating that the theft problem remains unresolved. In response, New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently announced a plan to provide vehicle owners with free Apple AirTags to track their vehicles in case of theft.

State and local governments are taking matters into their own hands as it becomes evident that the automakers’ solution is not effectively addressing the issue. Hyundai and Kia, owned by the Hyundai Motor Group, are working to expedite the distribution of the software fix.

They claim that 6,000 installations are taking place daily, and they are reaching out to affected owners through various channels, including email, phone calls, social media, and other forms of advertising. However, authorities are not satisfied with the progress. Out of the 4.5 million eligible vehicles, only 210,000 have received the update so far.

Concerns are growing among authorities that these thefts may escalate into violent incidents if more drastic actions are not taken by the carmakers.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb criticized Kia and Hyundai for prioritizing profit over people by not installing engine immobilizers in these vulnerable vehicles, leading to the city’s decision to file a lawsuit.

It is evident that state and local governments are taking on an active role in addressing the issue due to the automakers’ insufficient solution. The carmakers themselves are under pressure to find more effective measures to resolve the ongoing theft problem and prevent potential violence associated with it.