Kia and Hyundai’s Million-Dollar Showdown Results in Ineffective Immobilizer

Immobilizer ineffective: Kia and Hyundai close million-dollar comparison

Hyundai and Kia’s US subsidiaries have agreed to settle class-action lawsuits against owners of certain vehicles without an effective immobilizer and push-button ignition. The agreement is worth approximately $200 million and affects around nine million vehicle owners. Under the settlement, customers who suffer loss or damage caused by vehicle theft, provided these are not already covered by insurance, will receive cash compensation. The manufacturers will pay for increased insurance premiums and other theft-related losses.

The settlement was reached following discovery that thieves could use simple means to circumvent the electronic immobilizer in cars from Hyundai and Kia, as well as from Tesla and Toyota. Using an RFID reader, an attacker was able to read the information from a key to switch off the vehicle’s connection, then short-circuit the vehicle in a conventional way. This led to an increase in certain car thefts in different US cities, and as of February 2023, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributed 14 accidents and eight deaths to such actions.

As part of the agreement, software upgrades will automatically be installed in conjunction with each service or maintenance appointment. For those whose vehicles do not support this upgrade, the settlement provides up to $300 in reimbursement for the purchase of various anti-theft devices. $145 million of the compensation will go towards deductibles for customers whose cars were stolen. Additionally, buyers whose vehicles are totaled are eligible for up to $6,125, and owners of lightly damaged vehicles can receive a maximum of $3,375, plus costs such as replacement car rental, towing, speeding tickets and other fees.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to provide additional support to our owners affected by increasing and ongoing criminal activity against our vehicles,” said Jason Erb, General Counsel, Hyundai Motor North America. The software upgrade, the provision of over 65,000 steering wheel locks, and the payout are the latest measures taken by Hyundai and Kia to protect their customers. Added John Yoon from Kia.

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