ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Hyundai Motor Company is rolling out a software upgrade it says will slow a recent increase in car thefts. The announcement came in a response to a local lawmaker’s call for action.
Congressman Joe Morelle made his request Saturday, asking the CEOs of Hyundai and Kia to address the security vulnerabilities that make certain models targets for theft. The key vulnerability relates to engine immobilizers, which were not equipped standard in many models released between 2011 and 2022.
Hyundai Vice President of Global Affairs Robert Hood addressed the local issue in a letter to Rep. Morelle Monday, saying in part, “this increase has been fueled by irresponsible social media video ‘challenges’ which have promoted this criminal activity.”
According to Hood the “theft mode” demonstrated in social media videos will be disabled by a software upgrade which has already begun rolling out to about 1,100,000 2011-2022 Hyundai owners.
“This population was selected to go first as it covers the highest selling vehicles and those most targeted by thieves according to our discussions with local law enforcement around the country,” Hood said.
Another 2,600,000 vehicles will receive the free update, in phases, by June. Vehicles with the upgrade can be taken to a dealership to get a sticker alerting would-be thieves that the car has the new “enhanced anti-theft technology.”
Hood says roughly 15 percent of the Hyundai vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 are not eligible for the upgrade. Hyundai is finalizing the details of a plan to reimburse owners of those vehicles for the cost of a steering wheel lock.
In the meantime, Hood says Hyundai will continue to work with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Rochester Police Department to make steering wheel locks available for free to residents.
Rochester police said more then 400 cars have been stolen already in 2023. A program to give away 500 free steering wheel locks began Tuesday.
“I’m grateful to Hyundai for their prompt response to my letter and heeding my calls to address this critical public safety crisis,” Rep. Morelle said in a statement issued Tuesday. “The solutions they have outlined will help crack down on vehicle theft and better protect our families and businesses. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Hyundai to ensure their security measures are made available immediately and at zero cost to consumers.”