Kia and Hyundai free software upgrade aimed at curbing thefts

Kia and Hyundai are taking a major step to decrease thefts of these cars across the nation.

Certain models without push starts are missing an electronic security device called an engine immobilizer, which makes them easier to start without a key. A social media trend shows thieves how to start them with a USB drive or screwdriver, which has led to car thefts across the nation.

"There was a decision made by these companies years ago to save money and now it's coming back to haunt them and they should do the right thing," Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Federation of Minnesota.

On Tuesday, the two automakers announced a new free, anti-theft software upgrade that will require drivers to have a key to start a car.

Kulda said a survey of the members of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota found some of the largest insurance companies stopped renewing policies for Hyundais and Kias because it's become too expensive to insure them.

"It's something that is very, very unusual. I had never seen this happen ever in the 20 years or so that I've been dealing with insurance," Kulda said.

Approximately 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias are eligible, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Kia said it has started contacting affected owners. Hyundai said affected owners can go to their nearest dealership and the upgrade will take less than a hour. Hyundai also said it will provide window stickers to help deter thieves.

"If we start to see that fewer Kias and Hyundais are being stolen and there's fewer claims costs, then I think insurers will get back into the marketplace," Kulda said.

Karlee Bliss said she felt "violated" after her Hyundai Tucson was taken from her secure garage in Burnsville last month. She tracked her car using an app Hyundai uses called Bluelink. She and her husband found it in an alley in Minneapolis with people sitting inside. They called police, and they made two arrests.

"It's very weird. Coming upon your car and having somebody else sitting in is just a weird feeling," Bliss explained.

She feels lucky she found the car but still had to pay the $500 deductible. The thieves had also stolen car seats and other valuable items from her car. The next day, her husband, who also drives a Hyundai, bought two steering wheel locks.

"It's a real big pain to use every time you park, but to have the little extra security helps a lot (and provides) peace of mind," Bliss said.

Both companies will roll out the software updates in a phased approach. Kia will begin to update vehicles later this month, with ensuing phases throughout the next several months.

The following Hyundai vehicles will be eligible for the update on Feb. 14:

  • 2017-2020 Elantra
  • 2015-2019 Sonata
  • 2020-2021 Venue

The following Hyundai vehicles will be eligible for the update in June:

  • 2018-2022 Accent
  • 2011-2016 Elantra
  • 2021-2022 Elantra
  • 2018-2020 Elantra GT
  • 2011-2014 Genesis Coupe
  • 2018-2022 Kona
  • 2020-2021 Palisade
  • 2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport
  • 2013-2022 Santa Fe
  • 2019 Santa Fe XL
  • 2011-2014 Sonata
  • 2011-2022 Tucson
  • 2012-2017, 2019-2021 Veloster

Hyundai said more information is available at, where customers can input their vehicle’s VIN to find out when it is eligible for the software upgrade.