Hyundai Announces Free Software Update To Make Its Cars Harder to Steal

Hyundai Announces Free Software Update To Make Its Cars Harder to Steal

I can only imagine what it was like in the room when top Kia and Hyundai executives got together to discuss a viral social media challenge that not only showed people how to steal your cars but encouraged people to do it.

Now, after months of scrambling around and offering half-measure fixes (some of which the companies charged owners for), a new software update is being offered for free in the U.S. on select models starting on Tuesday, according to an announcement made by Hyundai.

In case you’re not up on viral TikTok car theft challenges, basically, someone found out it was possible to steal a huge swath of late-model Hyundais and Kias in the U.S. with little more than a USB cable. This was possible thanks to the lack of an engine immobiliser being installed in the cars from the factory.

No vehicles in Australia are susceptible to the hack, due to ADR requirements for immobilising devices. As such, the update will not be applied to Australian vehicles.

Hyundai and Kia’s new software update is a workaround for the immobiliser. It requires the vehicle to be unlocked with a key fob, which defeats an “Ignition Kill Mode” in the car to start the vehicle. This isn’t unlike the immobilisers Ferrari used on the 360 Modena, but this issue affects cars produced up to 2021.

Prior to this free update, Hyundai and Kia offered a security kit for owners of affected vehicles that they had to shell out $US170 ($236) for, plus the cost of installation, which was around 2.5 hours of labour at a dealer, bringing the total to upwards of $US500 ($694). If that sounds like kind of a shitty thing to do, it is. We asked Hyundai representatives whether or not there were plans to reimburse these owners who paid for the fix but didn’t hear back in time for publication.

The free software update is being rolled out in stages, with the initial release on Tuesday being for the highest-selling models. These include the 2017-2020 Hyundai Elantra, the 2015-2019 Sonata and the 2020 and 2021 Venue. Other models will come later, including ones from Kia, with a grand total of around 8 million vehicles being eligible for the new software. Kia hasn’t released its schedule yet, but we assume it has one and reached out to see if it would tell us what it was. We’ll update this story if we hear back.

While this software update is surely good news for owners of these cars, we were also curious how this would affect the decision by State Farm and Progressive (among others) not to insure these vehicles in some markets. We emailed State Farm’s media relations department to see if there were plans to reinstate these vehicles’ policies or if it was going to wait and see if the fix works as well as Hyundai seems to think it will. We have yet to hear back as of the time of publication.

Hyundai does state in its press release that some vehicles produced between 2011 and 2022 aren’t compatible with the new software. Hyundai claims it will reimburse people for steering wheel locks (read: The Club) for these models. While getting that money back is a good thing, it still leaves owners in a bad place in terms of security, insurability and resale value.

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