Hyundai launches software update to stop thefts of its vehicles

We heard that an anti-theft software fix was coming for certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles — 8.3 million of them in all — and now it’s officially here. Starting today, three Hyundai models will be eligible for free software upgrades that will prevent the vehicles from being stolen via the method popularized online.

The three models include the 2017-2020 Elantra, 2015-2019 Sonata and 2020-2021 Venue. This update is being introduced as a “service campaign” for all eligible models and will require a trip to the dealership. Hyundai dealers will install a software update to the vehicles that takes “less than one hour” to complete. Once the updated software is installed, all vehicles will get a new window decal to alert thieves that the vehicle has the upgraded anti-theft technology installed.

Kia does not expect to begin updates of its vehicles until later this month, according to NHTSA. 

The free upgrade will be offered for 3.8 million Hyundai and 4.5 million Kia vehicles in the United States, the automakers and NHTSA said.

TikTok videos showing how to steal cars made from 2015 to 2019 without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices have spread nationwide. “This had led to at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said.

What does the software update do, exactly? Hyundai says that it “modifies certain vehicle control modules on Hyundai vehicles equipped with standard ‘turn-key-to-start’ ignition systems.” If you lock the door with the key fob, that will automatically set the factory alarm and enable a new “ignition kill” feature. The only way to deactivate the ignition kill feature is to unlock the vehicle with the key fob once more.



The software “updates the theft alarm software logic to extend 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,” NHTSA said.

In addition to the update, Hyundai says it’s working with law enforcement agencies to distribute free steering wheel locks to owners. Unfortunately, some 2011-2022 Hyundai models that are affected by this theft problem are not compatible with the software upgrade Hyundai introduced today. If you own one of those vehicles, Hyundai says it’s currently finalizing a program that will reimburse folks for the purchase of steering wheel locks.

In addition to the three models eligible for software updates now, Hyundai says 14 additional models will be eligible starting in June this year. These models include the 2018-2022 Accent, 2011-2016 Elantra, 2021-2022 Elantra, 2018-2020 Elantra GT, 2011-2014 Genesis Coupe, 2018-2022 Kona, 2020-2021 Palisade, 2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport, 2013-2022 Santa Fe, 2019 Santa Fe XL, 2011-2014 Sonata, 2011-2022 Tucson, 2012-2017 Veloster and 2019-2021 Veloster.

Notifications to owners will go out via mail, email, phone contact and through a dedicated website — folks can type in their VIN to the website to find out when their vehicle is eligible for the software update. We recently reported that State Farm and Progressive are the two insurers that won’t cover some of the affected Hyundai and Kia products in some states. We’ll be following along to see how insurers adjust their policies as these updates hit the market.

Includes information from Reuters


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