Hyundai Testing Mobile Anti
Hyundai owners in the Washington, D.C., area can get anti-theft software installed for free at a mobile clinic starting July 27, 2023. A Hyundai spokesperson tells us the effort is a pilot the automaker may repeat in other cities.
“Hyundai Motor America is collaborating with Mayor Muriel Bowser and acting Metropolitan Police Chief Pamela A. Smith to provide a mobile service center at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., from July 27-31,” the company says.
The clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. all five days, and no appointment is required.
Most Washington residents know that RFK Stadium is closed and fenced off for safety reasons. Temporary signs near the stadium will direct owners to part of the stadium campus often used for automotive industry events.
Kia and Hyundai are both under the umbrella of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company and build many vehicles with shared parts.
Some older Hyundai and Kia vehicles lack a common anti-theft device called an engine immobilizer. More expensive trims from both brands tend to have the part. But base models from before 2021 often don’t.
Without it, thieves have an easier time starting a car without its key.
In late 2021, social media videos taught viewers how to start them with a screwdriver and a standard USB cable.
That triggered a nationwide wave of thefts. According to a 2022 insurance industry report, claims for 2015-2019 Hyundai and Kia models were nearly twice as common as claims for vehicles made by any other manufacturer.
Some major insurance companies have begun declining coverage on specific models in some states because the theft risk is high enough to throw off actuarial calculations.
Both automakers have begun rolling out a software update to prevent most thefts.
It doesn’t create an immobilizer but acts as a workaround for one. After the update, the car won’t start unless it’s unlocked with the key fob.
In the rare circumstance that a customer locks the car with the key fob and unlocks it with the physical key, it will not start until they press the unlock button on the key fob. So, if you own one of these cars, you’ll want to keep a fresh battery in your key fob.
Both companies have also given out free steering wheel locks to owners, and Hyundai has worked with AAA insurers to offer insurance coverage for owners who can’t find it elsewhere.
The efforts might be enough to stem the tide of thefts. But only if owners know about them.
An Associated Press study from May found that thefts in many cities continued to rise even after the software rollout began.
Eighteen states have asked the federal government to force the company to recall the cars. So far, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not acted. The legislation that created the recall process authorizes it for safety reasons and may not cover theft.
Hyundai’s latest effort is to get owners to sign up for the upgrade. A spokesperson says, “Washington, D.C., is the pilot location for the rollout of the drive-through anti-theft mobile clinic.” If it succeeds, the company “will consider plans to replicate in other regions.”
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