Hyundai and Kia have a Valentine's Day present for some of their customers.
The sister automakers have developed new software aimed at preventing an auto theft technique targeting several of their vehicles that's been spread on TikTok and other social media, resulting in tens of thousands of thefts over the past year.
The method worked on certain older low-end models from 2011 to 2021 that used a keyed ignition instead of a pushbutton start and were not equipped with immobilizers.
The videos showed how the steering column cover could be removed and the tip of a USB cable used to turn the ignition.
The software upgrade reprograms the car so that locking the doors with the key fob sets the factory alarm and activates an "ignition kill" feature. This prevents the vehicles from being started unless the key fob is used to unlock them, which reactivates the ignition.
Hyundai on Tuesday began making it available to owners of the 2017-2020 Elantra, 2015-2019 Sonata and 2020-2021 Venue, while it will be available for other models in June.
"Hyundai is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products through continuous improvement and is pleased to provide affected customers with an additional theft deterrent through this software upgrade," said Randy Parker, CEO, Hyundai Motor America.
"We have prioritized the upgrade’s availability for owners and lessees of our highest selling vehicles and those most targeted by thieves in order for dealers to service them first."
All 2022 Hyundai and Kia vehicles built since November 2021 have standard immobilizers.
Nearly four million vehicles are eligible for the software, Hyundai said.
Hyundai said several 2011 to 2021 models are not compatible with the update and that Hyundai will provide steering wheel locks free of charge to those owners.
Kia said it has begun to contact owners and said it will be available to most owners of affected vehicles over the next few months, but did not release a specific model by model rollout.
State Farm and Progressive last month said they had stopped writing policies for some Hyundai and Kia models due to the issue.
The Hyundai models that will get the update in June are:
2018-2020 Elantra GT
2011-2014 Genesis Coupe
2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport
2013-2022 Santa Fe
2019 Santa Fe XL
2012-2017, 2019-2021 Veloster