KIA, Hyundai offering anti-theft software

Published 9:00 am Friday, February 17, 2023

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Kia and Hyundai are offering free anti-theft software updates for more than 8 million vehicles due to car thefts inspired by a viral social media challenge.

Stacy Cauthen, Service and Parts Director at Kia of LaGrange, said the update is currently available at the dealership for some vehicles and should only take 30 minutes to an hour to install.

The update is necessitated by the so-called “Kia Challenge” on Tik-Tok, which has spread nationwide and has led to hundreds of car thefts. At least 14 crashes have been reported and eight fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Users on the social media site have posted instructional videos to inform potential car thieves how to bypass security systems using tools as simple as a USB cable.

The thieves take advantage of the vehicle’s lack of engine immobilizers, which use electronic signals to prevent cars from being hot-wired according to a report by NPR.

The majority of vehicles sold in the last 20 years have them, but many Kias and Hyundais produced before mid-2021 lack the devices.

Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia are offering software updates to the vehicle’s anti-theft systems which will double the length of the alarm sound and require a key in the ignition switch to turn the vehicle on.

NHTSA urges owners of these vehicles to contact Kia at (800) 333-4542 or Hyundai at (800) 633-5151 for information on the free software update.

According to NHTSA, Kia and Hyundai will roll out software updates in a phased approach starting later this month.

The phases are expected to continue throughout the next several months.

Approximately 4.5 million Kias and 3.8 million Hyundais are eligible for the software update free of charge.

There hasn’t been a nationwide accounting of how many Kias and Hyundais have been stolen according to NHTSA, but thefts in some individual cities have increased nearly tenfold for the vehicles.

Kia and Hyundai vehicle owners are instructed to take their cars to a local dealership for the updated software.

“The update now is available on some K5s and some of the Kia Sportages,” Cathen said. “They are releasing updates each month to more vehicles as they become available.”

Cauthen said the update also comes with a window sticker to alert would-be thieves that the vehicle is updated with the new software to stop the thefts.

The update only applies to vehicles that use a steel key or key start push buttons. it doesn’t apply to vehicles with push-button starts that do not require a key, said Cauthen.