The Los Angeles Police Department is urging Kia drivers to take extra precautions as thefts increase.
“Investigators have learned that the push button ignition can be bypassed by utilizing a third-party electronic device,” LAPD’s Rampart Area office posted on social media Tuesday.
Hyundai and Kia are rolling out software updates to slow a surge in thefts related to a TikTok challenge that authorities believe has led to at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities.
The challenge shows TikTok viewers how to hot-wire Kia and Hyundai cars with a USB cord and a screwdriver.
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 the rampant theft of 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 Tuesday.
Hyundai said updates begin Tuesday for nearly 4 million vehicles beginning with a million models of 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.
“We have prioritized the upgrade’s availability for owners and lessees of our highest-selling vehicles and those most targeted by thieves in order for dealers to service them first,” said Randy Parker, CEO of Hyundai Motor America.
In September 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.
Hyundai and Kia will start software updates later this month, with subsequent phases over the next several months. Hyundai will also provide window stickers to vehicle owners that alert would-be thieves that the vehicle has anti-theft protection
In the meantime, LAPD is urging Kia drivers to always lock their vehicles, don’t leave keys or key fobs inside, use anti-theft devices like The Club or an alarm system, and if they park on the street to move their vehicle regularly.