CLEVELAND — Hyundai and Kia have announced anti-theft software upgrades on eligible models after the viral TikTok challenge caused a surge in car theft.
Felix Lopez was a victim of that car theft and said he’s still grappling with the fact that his car got stolen.
“I checked my security cameras and my car was taken almost 4 am in the morning,” he said.
Lopez recalled the steps taken by the thieves for his car.
“They busted out my back window and they pealed my column, busted it all up an iPhone charger, they use that to turn the car on,” said Felix.
After more than 18 months of cars going missing, a software update has been rolled out for certain models of the car brands.
Freddy Mansour, the general manager at Spitzer AutoWorld in Cleveland, works with those cars and is still blown away by the challenge.
“It's just crazy of what you know, social media can do,” Mansour said.
He said they have felt the blow of the viral TikTok challenge, seeing stolen cars brought in continuously.
“It's affected us, people think, 'I don't want buy a Kia because it’s going to get stolen,' it’s not true, from 2015 to 2021 are the ones that are being targeted. Anything 2022 or newer, you can't steal,” said Mansour.
The new update will be installed on eligible Hyundai's made before 2021 to stop the surge in theft.
Both car makers will be rolling the updates out over the next few months and Hyundai plans to provide window stickers to alert would-be thieves that the cars have been updated.
“So it's an immobilizer preventing this whole key or screwdriver thing from going on doesn't start the car,” said Mansour.
2011 to 2022 models without engine immobilizers are not eligible for the software upgrade. So Hyundai plans to reimburse them for steering wheel locks.
The software is already on the new models, which has led customers to exchange their cars.
“We're typically fixing them and the customers are coming back and trading them in for newer ones that got it. That way, they don't have to deal with it,” said Mansour.
This is good news for drivers like Lopez who says it’s overdue. For now, he’s added his own protection to his car with the fear it would get stolen again.
“I ordered an Apple Air Tag which they must be a hot commodity,” he said. “I bought a club to lock my steering wheel and I repaired my windows."
While you're waiting for an appointment, make sure to check with your local police department to see if they are handing out free steering locks.
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