Crime, Law and Justice

Hyundai and Kia vehicle owners flock to Twin Cities pop-up clinics for anti-theft software

A man stands next to a car window.
Patrick Kimbrough, a technician with Hyundai, talks to a vehicle owner as they help people at a pop-up clinic to install anti-theft software on Sunday at Allianz Field in St. Paul.
Nicole Ki | MPR News

Hundreds of Hyundai and Kia owners took advantage of pop-up clinics stationed in the Twin Cities area over the weekend to get free anti-theft software installed.

The clinics come after thefts of Hyundai and Kia models have spiked locally and nationwide after widely circulated social media videos provided simple how-to instructions.

The pop-up clinics are part of a nationwide tour that started in Washington, D.C., this summer to address concerns about the rising number of Hyundai car thefts across the country.

In Minneapolis alone, police have tallied over 4,000 Hyundai and Kia thefts so far this year. The thefts have been of models built from 2011 to 2022.

St. Paul resident Rochell Staton-Walka drove over to Hyundai’s pop-up clinic outside of Allianz Field on Sunday after church. The clinic was stationed under white tents, where Staton-Walka waited a total of five minutes for technicians to work on the installation of the new software.

“A friend of mine in Philly, she has a Kia and they tried to steal hers,” said Staton-Walka. “And they really did a whole lot of damage. So I wanted to prevent it in the event that someone would try.”

She said she felt more relieved knowing she has the upgrade installed in case someone attempted to steal her Hyundai.

Ben Nelson, who lives in Rosemount, said he also felt more secure with the software installation.

“In Rosemount, I’m probably not as concerned, but anytime I come up here for a game, whether it's a soccer game, football game, I don't usually drive the vehicle up here because of that,” said Nelson of the car thefts. “But at least now, it’ll be preventable, at least a lot more preventable than what it was.”

A hand holds a small device.
Ira Gabriel holds the "wireless dongle" that installs software via a Bluetooth connection during an event held by Hyundai to install anti-theft prevention software in vehicles on Sunday at Allianz Field in St. Paul.
Nicole Ki | MPR News

Dave VandeLinde, Hyundai’s Vice President of Aftersales, said the software is a “unique solution” for each model.

“The technician uses a wireless dongle that plugs in underneath the dashboard to that vehicle and then we work off an Android tablet,” said VandeLinde. “So we push wirelessly Bluetooth down into the vehicle, a big software package, that adds the immobilizer technology so as the customer locks and unlocks their door with the key fob, now that also arms and disarms their immobilizer system.”

Hyundai’s first pit stop in Minnesota was on Friday and Saturday, where a clinic was set up at the old Kmart site in south Minneapolis.

VandeLinde said there’s been a “great response” from Hyundai owners in the Twin Cities area so far.

“We had our best-ever Friday this week,” said VandeLinde. “And yesterday, we finished up with over 300 for our last day in Minneapolis. And we’re already trending, frankly, for about a 300 day today here at the first day here at Allianz Field in St. Paul.”

But Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office has pushed both Hyundai and Kia to do more to address the thefts, encouraging the companies to issue recalls, citing the fact that not all Kia and Hyundai vehicles are eligible for the update.

The clinic in St. Paul is open Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hyundai owners can also make appointments at their local dealership to get the free software installed.

Kia also held a clinic Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.

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