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Earlier this month, it was reported that major insurance companies were refusing to insure certain Hyundai and KIA vehicles due to rampant thefts. The situation has been ongoing for nearly two years now, but until recently there were few options for owners to help keep their vehicles safe. Finally, widespread public pressure has pushed Hyundai and Kia to take action. A free software update is on the way to owners of affected models to prevent thefts.

A 2023 Hyundai Tucson
2020 Hyundai Tucson | Hyundai

When will the Hyundai and Kia theft update be available?

As of this writing, there is no specific timetable for the release of the anti-theft software update. Initial reports stated that it would be available in March, though no estimated date has yet been released. However, representatives from Hyundai indicated to Autoblog that the upgrade will be available in the “very near future.” Meanwhile, KIA went on record as saying that it is testing “enhanced security software designed to restrict operation of the vehicle’s ignition system.”

How will the theft patch work?

Hyundai and Kia plan to update the software to add an immobilizer function to the theft-prone models. Cars produced from 2010 to 2021 from the Korean automakers have no such function from the factory. The issue affected only cars and SUVs that require a key to start. Push-button start vehicles are unaffected by the problem, but that didn’t stop insurers like Progressive and State Farm from denying insurance policies for all models, regardless.

Models like this red Kia Niro were subject to theft -- a problem a new software update intends to fix
2018 Kia Niro | Kia

How did we get here?

A viral trend on TikTok revealed a simple exploit that made Hyundai and Kia vehicles remarkably easy to steal. All it took was a USB cable and a one-minute social media video to have a master key for any key-started Hyundai or Kia model made over the previous decade. The exploit affected hundreds of thousands of vehicles, yet the automakers did little to help remedy the situation.

The initial fix was to send steering wheel locks to police jurisdictions so that they could be distributed to anyone requesting assistance. Eventually, Kia and Hyundai sold theft prevention kits – at the cost of owners. The kits carried a $550 price tag, and even in-warranty Kia and Hyundai owners had to pony up the cash if they wanted the fix.

Public pressure caused Hyundai and Kia to react to rising thefts

In some areas, thefts of Hyundai and Kia models rose by hundreds of percentage points. In particular, Seattle saw a 363% increase in stolen Kias and a 503% rise in stolen Hyundais. That prompted the city to sue both automakers, and that’s not all.

In St. Louis, a 78% spike was noticed in 2022, with nearly 8,000 vehicles stolen. That led major insurers to raise rates on existing policies and deny new coverage to anyone with an affected vehicle. That’s when this story started to garner more serious attention, as local St Louis residents took their concerns public. From there, the story spread like wildfire, causing the Korean automakers to finally issue a meaningful statement that it would come to the aid of consumers.

Related Hyundai and Kia Owners Denied Insurance Coverage Due to Theft Exploit

Hyundai and Kia Owners Denied Insurance Coverage Due to Theft Exploit