Hyundai, Chicago police to announce ‘drive-thru’ software upgrade event to defeat rampant theft

Milwaukee-area “Kia boys” go for a ride in a YouTube video that went viral in June 2022. | TommyGMcGee

CHICAGO — Hyundai owners whose vehicles have a design flaw allowing thieves to steal the cars using little more than a screwdriver and a USB plug can get a free software upgrade in Chicago this weekend.

Representatives from the automaker and the Chicago Police Department will announce the three-day event during a press conference this evening.

Millions of Hyundai and Kia vehicles that operate with physical keys rather than a push-start button were manufactured without engine immobilizers, an anti-theft device that prevents cars from being started without their key.

Thieves have exploited the ignition flaw since instructional videos showing how to exploit the flaw went viral in the spring of last year. Motor vehicle thefts have skyrocketed in many parts of the country as legions of thieves, popularly known as “Kia boys,” began exploiting the flaw.

CPD and the automaker are expected to announce an opportunity for owners of affected Hyundai models to receive a free software upgrade that is supposed to correct the problem. An advance copy of a promotional flyer provided to CWBChicago said the event will be held at Guaranteed Rate Field parking lot “G,” 3423 South Normal, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

According to Hyundai, keyed vehicles manufactured before December 2021 may need to have the flaw fixed. Owners can enter their vehicle identification number at the company’s anti-theft site to see if their vehicle is affected.

A similar event for Kia owners last weekend drew long lines in St. Louis, with each upgrade taking 30 minutes to complete.

Motor vehicle thefts are up 59% this year compared to November 2022, when the theft craze was already in full swing.

Thefts are up 232% compared to 2019. Officials blame the Kia boy phenomenon for those increases, a claim supported by a CBS2 report that found 7% of all Hyundais and 10% of all Kias registered in the city were stolen last year.

By January this year, some insurance carriers had stopped issuing new policies for Hyundai and Kia owners in Chicago and other theft hotspots.

This list of affected Hyundai models appears on the company’s anti-theft site. | hyundaiantitheft.com

Since then, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has joined colleagues in other states to ask the federal government to order a nationwide recall of affected vehicles. More recently, Raoul and attorneys general from seven other states have said there are reports of Kias and Hyundais being stolen even after receiving the companies’ software upgrades.

Original reporting you’ll see nowhere else, paid for by our readers. Click here to support our work.

About Tim Hecke 289 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com