Hyundai, Kia Car Thefts Prompt Dealer To Make Its Own Cheap Bluetooth Immobilizer

One dealer did what Hyundai and Kia wouldn't by offering an immobilizer to new vehicle buyers.
Hyundai Palisade VIS
via Hyundai, VIS

Car-related crime has risen significantly over the past two years. It’s not just the theft of catalytic converters either, new vehicles—especially ones manufactured by Hyundai and Kia— are being stolen too.

Now, one dealership group has had enough. After amassing a backlog of more than 100 vehicles on its lot for theft and attempted theft-related repairs, the dealership made its own fix to prevent thefts from occurring and is now raking in cash from a proprietary immobilizer system.

Before we get to the solution, let’s talk a bit about the problem.

Most modern cars have something called an immobilizer. Essentially, an immobilizer is a theft deterrent that ensures a vehicle will not start without a paired key in the ignition. While there are other methods of tricking a vehicle into thinking it has a paired key present, the immobilizer effectively prevents a vehicle from being hotwired and driven away. Some base-trimmed Hyundai and Kia vehicles simply do not have an immobilizer built in, which has made them a prime target for thefts by groups like the Kia Boyz. In fact, the lack of equipment makes the thefts so simple that they can be accomplished with just a USB cable.

The fix? Well, according to Hyundai, it’s adding an anti-theft device like The Club. However, one dealership group in St. Louis, Missouri, isn’t accepting the low-tech solution and developed its own immobilizer to sell online and install in vehicles it sells and services. Suntrup Automotive Group built the VIS Security Device, a $99 immobilizer that requires the driver of an equipped vehicle to press a button on a wireless key fob to start it.

The VIS Security Device and its key fobs.

Now, Suntrup’s device isn’t built from scratch. Instead, Automotive News says that it takes an existing product and wires it to fit to most affected Hyundai and Kia vehicles. The product reportedly works on many different makes and models, though most brands already utilize an immobilizer in modern vehicles. Suntrup’s service director, Elliot Silk, says that even if a thief were to rip the immobilizer out, it would require a technician to rewire the vehicle for it to start.

Interestingly, many other existing products on the market achieve similar results, though the wiring isn’t as plug-and-play as Suntrup’s solution. In any case, it still won’t protect vehicle owners from broken windows, ripped-out steering columns, and busted locks—something that caused a backlog of more than 100 Hyundai and Kia vehicles at Suntrup dealerships since thefts began to spike.

Meanwhile, those looking for an OEM option will be happy to know that Hyundai is offering a security kit for affected vehicles in partnership with Compustar, but the kit is unpopularly priced at $170. With 2.5 hours of labor quoted for installation, it quickly brings the job likely close to $500. Despite this kit, cities and consumers have filed at least 15 lawsuits against the automaker over the thefts.

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