COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A summer rush of car thefts targeting two brands has one of the companies responding with new technology.
Hyundai released a security kit on Saturday in partnership with Compustar, authorizing it and all of the car company’s U.S. dealerships to sell it. Hyundai spokesman Ira Gabriel told NBC4 that the kit includes a “glass break sensor” to secure the car if someone tries to break in and steal it. The kit retails at $170, and customers will also need to pay for professional installation in their car.
The spokesman added there is more to come for the older models.
“Hyundai is also developing a software update to further secure these targeted vehicles,” Gabriel said. “We anticipate that this software update will become available for certain vehicles in the first half of 2023, with updates for other vehicles following thereafter.”
While Hyundai has put a price on the kit fix for their cars, Gabriel said it has been giving steering wheel locks to law enforcement in areas heavily impacted by the thefts. It’s also the parent company to Kia, the other car brand targeted by thieves. Kia has yet to release a similar security kit to retroactively fix their vulnerability, but has been giving out steering wheel locks for free.
The two brands saw theft rates skyrocket in Columbus and nationally. The 2022 trend took off after a series of Tiktok videos showcased how to steal 2011-2021 Kias and Hyundais by peeling back the cars' steering columns. The thieves, which in some cases have been identified as young as 14, then use something like a USB stick to turn the ignition.
Some of the thefts have turned deadly, including when three teens lost control of a stolen Hyundai and hit a Columbus light pole in July. The trend also prompted the Orange County attorney in California to file a class-action lawsuit against Kia America and Hyundai Motor America.
Gabriel told NBC4 that Hyundai took the issue seriously, and addressed the potential for thefts in all of its newly manufactured vehicles.
"We remain concerned about the increase in thefts of certain Hyundai vehicles that have been targeted in a coordinated social media campaign," Gabriel said. "In November 2021, engine immobilizers became standard on all Hyundai vehicles produced."
Kia America specified the same mechanism in its cars.
"All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change," Kia America said in a statement.
While Hyundai and Kia have now provided their own solutions for older, vulnerable models, central Ohio car dealerships have also suggested their own ways to prevent the thefts, including offering to install their own immobilizer.