The Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council is urging Hyundai and Kia vehicle owners to contact their automakers for a free security software update following a nationwide surge in car thefts that resulted in at least eight fatalities and 14 crashes.

The software update is designed for millions of Hyundai and Kia cars that lack an immobilizer. The upgrade is available free of charge to vehicle owners, and it includes an extension of the length of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute. It also requires the key to be in the ignition switch to turn the vehicle on.

The decision to offer the free software upgrade came after a viral TikTok social media challenge that showed viewers how to hotwire the vehicles. Approximately 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias are eligible for the update, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Hyundai and Kia are rolling out their free software updates in phases. Hyundai has launched its service campaign and is first offering a software upgrade to car owners with the following vehicle models: 2017 – 2020 Elantra, 2015 – 2019 Sonata, and 2020 – 2021 Venue. The NHTSA states that Hyundai will send customers a window sticker alerting would-be thieves that the vehicle is equipped with anti-theft protection.

Kia is also offering the free software upgrades in a phased approach. To see if your vehicle is eligible for the free updates, contact Hyundai at 1-800-633-5151 or Kia at 1-800-333-4542.

The Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council reminds vehicle owners that several common sense steps can be taken to reduce the chances of car theft. This includes never leaving your key alone in the vehicle, closing and locking all windows and doors when you park, always parking in well-lit areas, never leaving valuables within sight in your vehicle, and utilizing an alarm system and/or an anti-theft device.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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