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Kia, Hyundai anti-theft remedy is rolling out slowly

St. Louis is among several U.S. cities suing the automakers for a "too little, too late" response.

ST. LOUIS — Technology aimed at preventing Hyundai and Kia car thefts has not solved the problem. Data gathered by the Associated Press from seven U.S. cities, including St. Louis, shows the number of Hyundai and Kia thefts is still growing despite the companies' efforts to fix a security flaw.

A software update being rolled out was designed to thwart vehicle thefts caused by this flaw which was exposed on social media.

St. Louis is among cities that have sued the automakers, accusing them of failing to install industry-standard anti-theft devices and placing an undue burden on city services.

The companies' affected cars were not equipped with a theft immobilizer. The device contains a computer chip in the key that must be recognized by another chip in the steering column before the engine will start.

Both Hyundai and Kia company officials have said they are accelerating the distribution of their software, but safety authorities say the companies' software rollout has been far too slow. 

Of the 4.5 million Kia vehicles eligible for the fix, Kia officials said the company has installed the software on nearly 5% of cars. For 3.8 million Hyundais affected, the automaker has installed the fix on roughly 6%.

The companies' affected cars, many of which are lower-cost models from 2011 to early 2022 model years, were not equipped with a theft immobilizer. Kia officials said they expect to notify all affected owners by the end of May. For Hyundai, that date is May 18.

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