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Hyundai and Kia are rolling out software updates to stem a raft of auto thefts related to a TikTok challenge that authorities believe has led to at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities.
The updates are free for millions of vehicles that are missing a key anti-theft device, an issue that was exploited on social media and led to rampant theft of the cars.
The software being released updates the theft alarm software logic to extend the length of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute and requires the key to be in the ignition switch to turn the vehicle on.
About 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias are eligible for the software update, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
Hyundai said updates began for nearly 4 million vehicles beginning with a million model year 2017-2020 Elantra, 2015-2019 Sonata and 2020-2021 Venue vehicles. The software upgrade is scheduled to be available for the remaining eligible vehicles by June.
In September 2022, the Highway Loss Data Institute, a unit of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found that Hyundais and Kias without immobilizers had a vehicle theft claim rate of 2.18 per 1,000 insured vehicle years. The rest of the industry combined had a rate of 1.21. An insured vehicle year is equal to one vehicle insured for one year.
The institute compared vehicles from the 2015 through 2019 model years. It studied vehicle theft claims from 2021.
Hyundai says all models produced after Nov. 1, 2021, have immobilizers as standard equipment.
A TikTok social media challenge put a spotlight on the vehicles’ lack of an immobilizer and resulted in at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities, according to the NHTSA. The challenge shows TikTok viewers how to hot-wire Kia and Hyundai cars with a USB cord and a screwdriver.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.