It's been three months since the automaker released a solution. What gives?
The software security update released by Hyundai and Kia three months ago to battle vehicle theft following a series of TikTok "how to" instructional videos is not fully solving the problem, the Associated Press reports.
Last year, viral TikTok videos began to appear demonstrating how to steal popular older models like the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Soul using only a USB cable and a screwdriver. Major insurance companies began to refuse to insure these owners, while cities, like Seattle, filed lawsuits against the South Korean car brands. There was even an embarrassing instance of an unmarked, undercover NYPD officer's Kia Optima getting stolen and taken for a joyride.
In February, the automaker released a free anti-theft software upgrade for 8.3 million vehicles, including 3.8 million from Hyundai and 4.5 million from Kia. Unfortunately, that wasn't good enough. The latest data indicates thieves are still finding success.
The report claims that police in cities across the country, including Minneapolis, Cleveland, St. Louis, Seattle, Atlanta, and New York are reporting "substantial year-over-year increases in Hyundai and Kia theft reports through April." In Minneapolis, authorities reported 1,899 Kia and Hyundai thefts in 2023 - nearly 18 times the same period last year. What gives?
Are owners not downloading the free software security patch? Have thieves discovered a workaround? Whatever is happening, it's bad. "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, said. "We have some weeks where nearly as many Kias and Hyundais are stolen in a week as had previously been stolen in a year."
Unfortunately, official nationwide theft data is not yet available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That information for the first part of 2023 is expected in the coming few months, but police departments are already showing the theft problem has not been resolved.
Just last week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams held a news conference where he announced a plan to provide vehicle owners with free Apple AirTags to help them track their vehicles in case of theft. Citizens are then encouraged to contact the police with that data in the hopes of recovering the vehicle.
But it's clear that state and local governments are being forced to take matters into their hands because the automaker's solution is not working. For their part, both carmakers, which are owned by the Hyundai Motor Group, are working to accelerate the software fix distribution.
Supposedly, there are 6,000 installations daily, and affected owners are being contacted via email, phone calls, social media, and other forms of advertising but authorities are not satisfied. Of those 4.5 million eligible vehicles, only 210,000 have received the update. "Kia and Hyundai prioritized profit over people by not installing engine immobilizers in these vehicles," Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said when announcing the city's lawsuit.
Authorities are rightly concerned these thefts will lead to violence if the carmakers don't take more drastic actions.
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