Hyundai, Kia roll out software update to thwart thefts

A couple stand at their kitchen counter using a laptop to shop for new car insurance after some insurers drop hyundai and kia models.Image: A couple stand at their kitchen counter using a laptop to shop for new car insurance after some insurers drop hyundai and kia models.
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Responding to a rash of thefts across the country, automakers Hyundai and Kia are rolling out a free anti-theft software upgrade for more than 8 million of their vehicles.

Theft rates skyrocketed after online videos showed how easy it was to steal certain models of the cars. A TikTok social media challenge, which has spread nationwide, has been linked to at least 14 crashes and eight fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Because many of the affected vehicles don’t have anti-theft computer chips in their ignition systems, it’s easier for thieves to steal the cars.

The free anti-theft software upgrade to about 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias in the U.S. will extend the length of the alarm sound to one minute and require the key to be in the ignition switch to start the vehicle.

Key takeaway: If you have a 2022 or earlier Hyundai or Kia, check into whether you should get the automakers’ free anti-theft upgrades — and consider doing some insurance shopping.

Why are these models easier to steal?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, many 2015 to 2019 Hyundai and Kia vehicles lack electronic immobilizers, which prevent car thieves from bypassing the ignition system.

The nonprofit group says the anti-theft technology is standard equipment on nearly all vehicles made by other manufacturers at the time.

Impact of Hyundai and Kia thefts

  • Loss claims rise. By the second half of 2021, Hyundais and Kias from the 2015 to 2019 model years were reported stolen about twice as often as other vehicles of similar age, according to a 2022 Highway Loss Data Institute bulletin.
  • Insurers bow out. State Farm said in a statement provided to news channel CNN that it had temporarily stopped writing new policies in some states, while Progressive said in an emailed statement to CNN that it had increased rates and limited sales of new policies in some geographic areas.

How are Hyundai and Kia responding?

Hyundai and Kia, which is owned by Hyundai Motor Group, are offering free software upgrades for the vehicles that lack an immobilizer, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Dealers’ technology updates for car owners

  • Hyundai. Hyundai dealers will be performing the software updates, which will take less than an hour, the automaker said in a statement. Each vehicle will then get a window decal to show that it is equipped with enhanced anti-theft technology. For more information, visit
  • Kia. Kia is conducting its software updates in phases, according to the NHTSA. For more information, Kia owners can contact the company at 800-333-4542.  

What you can do

If you own a Hyundai or Kia, you can look in your owner’s manual or contact a local dealer to determine whether it’s equipped with an engine immobilizer.

Other anti-theft and insurance advice

  • Check for free lock. Hyundai and Kia have distributed more than 26,000 steering wheel locks to 77 law enforcement agencies in 12 states, according to the NHTSA. Police are giving them away to Hyundai and Kia owners.
  • Take steps to protect your car. Always lock your doors and park in well-lit areas, advises the National Insurance Crime Bureau. You can also consider using aftermarket theft prevention devices, including add-on alarm systems, pedal locks and kill switches.
  • Shop for insurance. Although a range of factors can affect your insurance premiums, there are things you can do to try to get the least expensive and most dependable insurance for your situation. One of the simplest ways to shop around for insurance coverage is to compare auto insurers online.

About the author: Brad Hanson is a senior editor at Credit Karma. His 30 years of experience in print and digital media includes work for the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, and Polyvore. Most recently before… Read more.