Security Fix Doing Little to Slow Down Hyundai, Kia Theft Rates


The software Hyundai and Kia released nearly three months ago to prevent vehicles built without engine immobilizers being stolen has so far not made a dent in theft rates, the Associated Press reported May 9.

The AP analyzed data from seven U.S. cities, which it said shows the number of thefts is, in fact, still growing. Only Denver reported a decline in the theft rate of Kias and Hyundais compared to 2022---23%---but its rate is still high.

Part of the issue is the slow rollout; only about 5% of eligible Kias and 6% of Hyundais have received the update, the AP said.

The trend began in 2021, when videos were first shared on social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok, showing how to steal certain Kias and Hyundais, by simply removing the plastic cowl under the steering column and using a USB cable to trick the vehicles, which lacked engine immobilizers, into thinking a key was being used.

Engine immobilizers, which prevent vehicles from being started unless a unique code is transmitted from the vehicle’s key, are not required by U.S. law.

In February, the automakers, which are owned by the same parent company, started rolling out a software update that extends 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.

However, in Minneapolis, 1,899 Kia and Hyundai thefts have been reported, nearly 18 times the number for the same period in 2022.

“The scope of the problem is only expanding and is exponentially worse than it has been in the past,” Brian O’Hara, the police chief of Minneapolis, told the AP. “We have some weeks where nearly as many Kias and Hyundais are stolen in a week as had previously been stolen in a year.”

In April, 17 state attorneys general sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calling for a safety recall on the affected models. The same month, the mothers of two teenagers killed in a crash in a stolen Kia SUV in New York filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kia, claiming the automaker could have prevented the crash by installing an engine immobilizer. In total, the rash of thefts is linked to 14 crashes and eight deaths nationwide.

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