Hyundai, Kia offer free software upgrades to stop rash of car thefts: What to know

The Hyundai logo is displayed on a brand new Hyundai Santa Fe SUV at a Hyundai dealership on April 7, 2017 in Colma, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hyundai and Kia are offering more anti-theft software upgrades to drivers after a TikTok trend revealed how easy it was to steal older models. The car manufacturers are also scaling up efforts to ensure more eligible owners are protected. 

In some cases, it's as easy as using a USB cable and screwdrivers. According to various reports, the trend emerged in 2021 and led to a surge in car thefts.

Hyundai said in a statement to FOX Business that the company is committed to taking comprehensive actions to assist customers who have been affected by the persistent thefts of certain vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 that do not have push-button ignitions and engine immobilizers.


"Hyundai has responded with wide-ranging initiatives to enhance the security of vehicles without engine immobilizers still on the road," the company said. "Chief among these measures is the development and validation of a no-cost software upgrade for the owners of these vehicles to prevent the theft mode popularized on social media." 

Hyundai announced on its website that nearly 4 million vehicles are eligible for the software upgrade that "modifies certain vehicle control modules on Hyundai vehicles equipped with standard turn-key-to-start ignition systems." 

Moving forward, locking the car doors will set the factory alarm and activate what the company calls an "ignition kill" feature, so the car can't be turned on "when subjected to the popularized theft mode."  

For vehicles that can't accommodate the software upgrade, Hyundai is installing ignition cylinder protectors for free. 

To scale its efforts, the company launched multi-day mobile software installation clinics in over a dozen cities nationwide including Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Seattle. The company said it plans to continue this effort in additional markets as it seeks to speed up the installation of these anti-theft protections. 

Hyundai provided no-cost anti-theft solutions to more than 1.2 million affected vehicles as of March 15.

In December, Kia America also unveiled another security measure "to support its customers in response to criminals using methods of theft popularized on social media to steal or attempt to steal certain vehicle models." 


The company said the new hardware, an ignition cylinder protector, will prevent "its removal through the method of theft promoted in videos that have spread across social media encouraging criminal activity."

The upgrade isn't eligible for the security software upgrade that Kia introduced last summer. 

In August 2023, the company held a free anti-theft software upgrade event at the Atlanta Civic Center in Atlanta where eligible owners were given a free steering wheel lock to make it harder for the vehicle to be stolen. 

Kia also gave the Atlanta Police Department a large quantity of free steering wheel locks to distribute to Kia owners who weren't eligible for the software upgrade.

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