Hyundai and Kia offer free anti-theft software update for easily stolen cars in TikTok Challenge – NBC4 Washington

After months of Hyundais and Kias being stolen by TikTok users participating in the “Kia Challenge,” the two automakers are making a free theft-deterrent software update available to anyone who owns the vulnerable cars.

The news came in a consumer alert from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday.

“Hyundai and Kia have developed anti-theft software for millions of their immobilizer-less vehicles and will make it FREE to vehicle owners,” the alert reads.

The update software extends the car alarm “from 30 seconds to one minute and requires the key to be in the ignition to turn the vehicle on,” the warning reads.

The Kia Challenge started on TikTok showing how certain older Kias and Hyundai models can be stolen using a USB cable.

According to NHTSA, around 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias lack an “immobilizer,” which prevents the car from starting without a key.

Thefts skyrocketed across the country after the challenge began. According to the consumer alert, the social media challenge has “resulted in at least 14 reported accidents and eight fatalities,” in addition to a number of stolen cars.

A Maryland woman, Lexy, has had her Kia stolen twice thanks to the challenge. After costly repairs to fix the damage caused by the first theft, her Kia Optima disappeared a second time and still hasn’t been found.

“My stomach just dropped. I was in total shock,” Lexy told News4 earlier this month.

Like other Kia and Hyundai owners, she saw higher car insurance rates due to the increased cost of replacements and repairs.

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According to the consumer alert, Hyundai and Kia have “worked with law enforcement to ship more than 26,000 steering wheel locks to 77 law enforcement agencies in 12 states since November 2022.”

Lexy, like many other drivers, also planned to buy a steering wheel lock, but the police ran out of free ones and online prices had skyrocketed.

But the car companies’ inaction so far has been frustrating.

“We’re just citizens trying to get to work and take care of our families,” Lexy said. “The fact that they haven’t offered any compensation, no way to resolve the issue – that’s really confusing.”

Hyundai will roll out its software update in phases later in February, the alert said, and will send customers “a window sticker warning would-be thieves that the vehicle is equipped with anti-theft devices.”

Kia will also start updating its vehicles later in February.

For information about the free updates, car owners can call Hyundai toll-free at 800-633-5151 or Kia toll-free at 800-333-4542.