LOS ANGELES — Whether it was simply a computer system malfunction or the sinister work of criminal hackers, the U.S. operations of Kia and Hyundai suffered extended network outages last week.
The automakers were dismissive of Internet reports that they had been victimized by a ransomware attack. But last week's system crash — which was being corrected as the week ended — slowed sales and finance deals, made some warranty service impossible and locked vehicle owners out of mobile applications that preheat their cars in the middle of winter storms.
The outages began on Feb. 13 and appeared to have a bigger impact on Kia than on its corporate sibling, according to interviews with dealers and statements from the automakers.
Three Kia retailers said the dealer communications platform KDealer was unavailable for several days, although partial access was restored by the end of last week. Throughout the outage, there were workarounds to keep sales moving along, but a significant amount of service work was affected.
"This portal handles all factory-dealer communications, including ordering and reporting new cars," said one Kia dealer, who asked that his name not be used. "The bigger issue at hand is that all service communications and uploading or downloading of software is unavailable. We are unable to perform necessary recall repairs, order parts, etc."