OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – An estimated eight million Kia and Hyundai owners are eligible for free upgrades to prevent auto theft. But a small number of owners are now left to question those upgrades and their effectiveness.
Ever since a viral Tik Tok video of a group with a USB cable and a screwdriver Kia and Hyundai thefts have skyrocketed.
Kansas City police says Kias and Hyundais account for 30% of all current car thefts. Mostly 2010-20 Hyundai and Kia turn key to start vehicles have been targeted because they lack an immobilizer making them easier to steal without the key.
In February the auto manufacturers announced they’d developed theft deterrent software for millions of their vehicles.
Tanisha Davis, owner of a 2017 Hyundai Sonata, signed up for the free upgrade.
“It made me feel comfortable because I felt like that they figured it out where I’d feel more secure my car wouldn’t get taken away,” Davis said.
But Monday morning when she went outside her Overland Park apartment to take her child to school, the Hyundai had been stolen.
“When I came out I was like where is the car at,” her boyfriend Romeo Koudou said.
“The first thing I was thinking of was this anti-theft software to how could this even happen? I have my key I have a copy of my key and somehow somebody was able to steal the whole entire car,” Davis said.
Kia confirms to FOX4 it’s investigating a similar theft in New Orleans, the first known of its kind after an upgrade.
“We have not yet had opportunity to inspect the vehicle so unable to ascertain condition and status at time of being stolen,” James Bell, head of corporate communications for KIA America, noted.
Hyundai hasn’t said whether its had other reports, so we went to an area dealership to see how the anti theft software works.
After scanning the car’s VIN it’s all done on a tablet in just a matter of minutes, as they access the vehicle’s electronic control module and improve logic for the immobilizer. Hyundai then adds decals warning thieves the vehicle is equipped with “anti-theft logic” and the customer has their car back.
Problem for Davis, she’s now waiting to get her car back from an impound lot after the vehicle was recovered in Kansas City, Kansas and to find out what kind of damage it has after being stolen.
“If I’m going to your shop they are nice people. I’m feeling confident there’s an anti theft software program and I’ll be okay with my car not being stolen. But I walk out at 8am and my car’s completely gone. I’m angry,” Davis said.
“Hyundai is committed to completing the security upgrades for all affected customers in the most effective manner possible. We are communicating with NHTSA on our many actions to assist our customers,” the auto manufacturer said to FOX4 in a statement.
A Hyundai page with more information about those efforts directs owners to use the key fob to lock and unlock their vehicles for the technology to work.
Davis says the company said to take her car back to the dealership when she gets it back, to figure out whether the software is working. She says the key fob was used to lock the vehicle.