Lowell Police see rise in thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles that can be started without a key fob

LOWELL, Mass. — Police say they’ve seen dozens of motor vehicle thefts since October, with thieves targeting certain Kia and Hyundai models that can be started without a key fob.

There have been 70 thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles with this security vulnerability reported from Oct. 1, 2023 through Wednesday, police said. There were 22 thefts reported in March, and 19 reported thefts in February.

Thirteen percent of the thefts have occurred in parking garages, police said.

Some Kia and Hyundai models from 2011 to 2021 are susceptible to theft due to improperly functioning engine immobilizer devices, police said. These vehicles include the Kia Forte, Optima, K5, Rio, Sedona, Sorento, Soul and Sportage, and Hyundai Elantra, Sonata, Venue, Kona, Veloster, Accent, Palisade, Genesis Coupe, Santa Fe, and Tuscon.

The security vulnerability allows some Kia and Hyundai vehicles to be started without a key or key fob being present.

Police are urging owners of these Kia and Hyundai vehicles to contact their local dealership to see if they qualify for a free security software update to help keep their vehicles secure. Police are also advising vehicle owners to use other security items, such as a steering wheel anti-theft device, which can deter thieves and provide some added security.

Lowell Police Superintendent Greg Hudon said police have been using social media to warn residents about the issue for months, but the thefts have continued.

“My goal is to alert all Kia and Hyundai owners in the City of the options available to them to help reduce the risk of their vehicle being targeted,” said Hudon. “These safety upgrades can often be done at little or no cost to the owner. If you are affected by this security threat please contact your dealership to have the security issue corrected.”

Lowell Police learned of the free software upgrades after contacting both auto manufacturers about the issue with thefts. Vehicle owners can contact Kia at 800-333-4542 and Hyundai at 800-633-5151 for more information.

For more information on the free software upgrades, visit this website.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following common-sense tips for helping to prevent vehicle theft:

  • Take your vehicle’s key; do not leave it in or on your vehicle.
  • Close and lock all windows and doors when you park.
  • Park in well-lit areas if possible.
  • Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially if they can be seen from outside the vehicle.

Find more information on preventing vehicle thefts on this government website.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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