Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia responded to the widespread theft of tens of thousands of their cars Friday by saying they would roll out software updates and vehicle locks on 4 million cars across the U.S. Thieves have targeted the cars after viral social media videos offered instructions on how to steal the cars with little more than a USB cable. After a surge in thefts across the U.S. in recent years, insurance companies said they would deny coverage to some of those cars, and attorneys general from many states signed a letter to the automaker pleading for a fix. City attorneys from Cleveland, Seattle, and St. Louis also have sued Hyundai, claiming lost police time tracking the stolen cars.
“We thank the Attorneys General for the opportunity to let them know what we have done and will continue to do to combat this rise in car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it,” Kia said in a statement.
At issue were millions of vehicles built without an immobilizer, which could easily prevent thefts. Thieves could force their way into cars and quickly start those cars with little more than a USB charger. Videos spread quickly, including those from Milwaukee-based “Kia Boyz,” of people stealing and whipping around in the stolen cars.
Frustrated law enforcement officials said Hyundai and Kia have only offered scant support until now. Cleveland police said they received 80 wheel locks to combat thefts. In a statement, Kia said it has distributed more than 23,000 locks so far and would continue providing locks to affected owners.
“We thank the Attorneys General for the opportunity to let them know what we have done and will continue to do to combat this rise in car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it,” Kia said.
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