Falling Gas Prices – It Looks Like a Great Time to Buy a Prius!

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Family, Hybrids, Madison, News | Posted on 04-11-2014


Gas Prices LowBooming SUV, crossover and pickup sales can only signal one thing — low gas prices.  With average gas prices falling to below $3 per gallon according to AAA, hybrid sales have softened a bit.  Earlier this year TrueCar reported a shift in consumer car buying preferences away from hybrids and toward pickups and SUVs.   In September Prius sales were down a little more than 10 percent compared to a year ago.   Last month Prius demand was off 14 percent, as gas prices stabilized.  To boost demand hybrid sales incentives have gone up to levels equal to, or even surpassing those of their gasoline counterparts.  The average transaction price for hybrids has shrunk by $113, according to TrueCar, while the average price for gasoline vehicles has actually gone up by over $700.


Turn the clock back about seven years to a time when the Prius was at the ‘top of its game’ – - when demand and gas prices were high and dealer inventories were low or non-existent. NS4 captureBack then, the window sticker price was the selling price and incentives were virtually nil.  In fact, there were waiting lists for the Prius with many customers queued up for over a year waiting to take delivery.  In September 2007, the Prius sold with average incentives totaling only $91 (or about the cost of the floor mats).  Fast-forward to last month — incentives across the US for the Prius liftback averaged $2,309 per vehicle.  The fortunes of hybrid sales have always risen or fallen with the price of gasoline, so this is not particularly surprising. That falling gas prices cause consumers to tack back to larger format vehicles is nothing new.  A TrueCar analysis of current year registrations shows that full-size pickup trucks now lead sales in 34 of 50 US states with most of these states located in the South.  But,  as  Matt DiLallo of The Motley Fool pointed out in October of last year, “fracking — that process of injecting high pressure fluids into the ground in order to fracture rock and retrieve oil or natural gas in the shale regions of the Upper Midwest and Pennsylvania has also prompted an incredible demand for pickups.”   Those four-wheeled pickups are sometimes the only viable solution for workers to get to a wellhead, so it is the vehicle of necessity.  


Recently, West Texas Intermediate crude dropped to below $80 a barrel, the lowest level in more than two years after Saudi Arabia reduced the cost of its oil to U.S. customers.   U.S. crude imports from Saudi Arabia fell to a four-year low last month and according to FuelFix, the Saudi move is more about wanting to preserve its US market share in the face of soaring North American output.   FuelFix reports that oil “has collapsed into a bear market as leading members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries resisted calls to cut production even amid signs of slowing global demand.”  Members of the group, which pumps about 40 percent of the world’s crude, “are engaged in an internal price war’ as they seek to defend their share of an oversupplied market”.  A US Energy Information Administration Market Prices and Uncertainty Report bears out that even as gas prices continue to slide due to robust supply and potentially weakening demand one thing is certain — these prices will remain historically volatile.  


Although at this point it would take a dramatic increase at the gas pump to wean some  buyers away from the larger format vehicles, this fall still looks like a great time to buy a hybrid. The third generation Toyota Prius has been on sale in its current form now since 2009 and despite help from the extended Prius family like the Prius v, Prius c and the Plug-in, sales of the traditional liftback have fallen off almost every month in 2014.  While it is still one of the best-selling Toyota models, it is obviously reaching the end of its current lifecycle.  Problem is, the next generation super-Prius won’t go into production for another year.  Therein lies the problem for Prius sales – low gas prices combined with the slack-end of a model cycle conspire to create a perfect storm for lagging hybrid demand.


Capture Welcome to PriusSo here’s the opportunity — slowing hybrid sales mean there are deals to be had and if you are a proactive car-buyer who wants a Prius now to prepare for the next time gas prices creep up to $4 per gallon there is no time like the present!  After all, whether gas costs $4, $3 or even $2 a gallon using less of this fossil fuel and saving money in the bargain is always a good idea!  So, if a Prius works for you (and not all of us want a SUV or a crossover), now is the time to act!



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The Next Toyota Prius Will Surprise You

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Events, Family, Hybrids, Madison, News | Posted on 15-10-2014


First, a little Prius history lesson:  after years of research and development the Toyota Prius went on sale in Japan in 1997 making it the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle.  In 2000 it was introduced worldwide. In the beginning, the innovative little hybrid was not so ground-breaking.

By the end of its first year in the US the Prius was still a novelty barely hitting the 5,600 unit mark in sales.  It wasn’t until the 2004 model with its popular hatchback design and a new hybrid drive system that sales of the Prius finally began to take off.  The Prius is now sold in 80 countries, with its largest markets being Japan and the United States.  Global sales of the Prius first hit the 1 million mile stone in May 2008, then 2 million in September 2010 and passing the 3 million mark in June 2013.

all-Toyota-hybrids-photo.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scale  By early April 2011 cumulative sales of 1 million Prius had been reached in the US with sales in Japan capping that number five months later.  The Prius name had so much market strength by then that Toyota turned Prius into a brand of its own with the launch of the roomier Prius v, a small high-mileage Prius c and a plug-in version.  By the end of 2013 Toyota had sold over 6 million hybrids worldwide, with the Prius making up the majority of those sales.  A mere nine months later global sales of Toyota hybrids crossed the 7 million mark. The US now accounts for more than half of global Prius sales with nearly 40 per cent of those coming from the state of California.

From the outset Toyota touted the Prius as the future of transportation.  That is, if we wanted cleaner air or had any hope of reducing oil consumption.  Back then, gas was ‘cheap’ just about everywhere — so relatively few people really cared about that notion anyway.  Only tech enthusiasts and environmentally-inclined folks bought the Prius, mostly to show how much they cared about Good Mother Earth.  Thanks to the choices made by the early-adapters then, hybrids have become ‘mainstream’ vehicles.  Now all cars (yes, even the pick-up trucks) achieve better fuel economy.

As more automakers began to introduce hybrids into their line-ups the hybrid category broadened.  Yet, the Prius remained the leader in efficiency and fuel consumption offering an EPA estimated (and legitimate) 50 mpg.  The Prius has been America’s favorite green car for over a decade now and since 2013 it has been the best-selling model in California.  No other company has succeeded in hybrids like Toyota.

Still, as auto sales have reached the highest levels since May 2004, hybrid sales have remained at 3 to 3.5 percent of total auto sales.  In short, US hybrid sales have not kept pace with the overall auto market.  So, what gives?  Have drivers actually grown accustomed to higher gas prices?  Or, have they just become accustomed to the Prius and 50 mpg?  There is Boiling Frog 1evidence to believe it’s a little of both.  More specifically, it is not the higher gas prices per se, that cause car buyers to react and choose more fuel efficient vehicles, but the rate of change in gas prices that motivates shoppers to get out of their comfort zones and choose more fuel efficient vehicles.   The relative pump price on any given day is not so much a motivation.  “A sudden increase of, say, $1 a gallon within a month is simply more noticeable,” says Stephen Edelstein of GreenCar Reports, “than the same increase would be if spread evenly over two years.” Gas prices have always been a deciding factor in hybrid sales and higher prices at the pump have historically driven more buyers into hybrid showrooms to make their car purchases. AutoPacific analyst Dave Sutton says that “people have realigned their budgets to $4 gas and they are making it work.”  But, he adds that “a big jump in gas prices could tip more buyers to reflexively consider hybrids”.  The more gas prices stay static, the more consumers adjust and gravitate back to more familiar choices.

The “boiling frog” metaphor is a good analogy to invoke here — the premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will hop out.  But if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be, as the story goes, cooked to death.  This anecdote is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to significant changes in life that occur gradually.  So, relating this to the price of gas – it is the rate of change in gas prices that causes consumer discomfort and spurs them to make more fuel-efficient choices.  A sudden jump in gas prices of up to a $1 a gallon within a month is simply more noticeable and creates more ‘pain at the pump’ than the same rate of increase over 24 months.

Car buyers nowadays also see hybrid technology differently. It’s viewed as just another power train to choose between when car-shopping.  As the International Business Times reports, car buyers now see hybrid technology “as an optional power train for their regular sedan or hatch, a way to still enjoy their favorite car while consuming and emitting less.”  In other words, the Prius has ‘gone mainstream’.  Toyota made hybrids mainstream with the immense success of the Prius, and often those mainstream car buyers are not the most passionate of car buyers.   The Prius is still without a doubt, the world’s best-selling hybrid car and a perfect example of everything Toyota does right – – industry-leading green technology that’s reliable, accessible and easy to use.  It is also, as Toyota readily admits, the company’s most important car.  So, the task looming before Toyota is to make the Prius ‘popular’ and ‘cool’ all over again – not only to the ‘techie’, the environmentalist and the fuel misers, but to the mainstream buyer as well.  Toyota is keenly aware that the next generation Prius needs to break new ground in every respect:  fuel efficiency, low carbon emissions, design and curb appeal.

Toyota was originally aiming to release the all-new fourth-generation Prius next spring, but now that’s been pushed back until December of 2015.  Presumably Toyota engineers are still sweating out all the details of the new hybrid technology.  But, will the new Prius really surprise us?  Most automakers are tight-lipped and absolutely will not talk about future technology except in very general terms and Toyota is very good at this, too.  What is known is that the next Prius will include a number of new technologies that are critical to Toyota.  Even all-wheel drive is under consideration.

The Prius is the best-selling hybrid in the world, right?  Then, it is a critically important product for Toyota to get right not only because of its sales volume, but as John Rosevear, senior auto specialist for The Motley Fool points out, because the Prius is “a symbol of all the things Toyota does right, making a car like this at such an affordable price.”  The Prius is so important to Toyota that many Prius watchers expect the automaker to make a ‘great leap forward’ with its next-generation hybrid.  So much so that the new Prius isn’t just likely to bring all-new hybrid technology, it may also pioneer a new way of designing and manufacturing vehicles for Toyota.

So, what can we really expect from the next Prius?  We have been hearing rumors about the next generation Prius for a couple of years now — everything from new batteries and more electric-only range to all-wheel drive and a radical, more-emotional re-design.  But, what should we expect and what are these new technologies?

When the third-generation Prius debuted with the 2010 model it featured a hybrid system that was 90% re-designed — gas engine, battery pack, inverters, controllers, motors and fuel evaporation system, pretty much everything.  All indications coming from Toyota hint at an even more thorough revision this time.  Even the six month delay of production for the fourth-generation Prius suggests that Toyota is adjusting the car for maximum fuel economy and efficiency.  The delay may be partly due to the new technologies that are being tested on the new Prius, including a new hybrid system and a modular vehicle architecture.

To begin with the company will enhance the efficiency of the gas engine.  Often the importance of the gasoline engine and its thermal efficiency gets lost in the discussion of hybrids.  The current toyota-new-fuel-efficient-gasoline-engines-unveiled-79824_2generation Prius Atkinson gasoline-engine has a thermal efficiency of 38.5 percent (compared to 14-30% in the average gas engine).  The new engine in the next Prius will increase thermal efficiency to a remarkable 42 percent.  That would make the new Prius engine the most efficient gas engine in the world.  Toyota said its new engine design achieves this without sacrificing power by improving combustion and reducing friction to boost efficiency.   Some of the efficiency improvement comes from boosting the limit on exhaust gas re-circulation from the current 21 percent to as high as 28 percent.  When the amount of cooled exhaust gas in the cylinder is increased, the temperature inside the cylinder is lowered.

The greater re-circulation of exhaust gases is due to faster combustion which is made possible by a new design that encourages faster airflow inside the cylinder.  Toyota says it has increased the average turbulent velocity of the gas-air mixture by more than 30 percent.   The company’s combustion engineers also  re-designed the shape of the top piston face to further airflow and significantly raised the ignition energy provided by the spark plug.  The new Atkinson engine shows “the future direction of Toyota engine development’ according to Brian Lyons a company spokesman.  Toyota may even employ this new tech in it’s larger V-8 powered engines.

Recently, Koei Saga, Toyota’s senior managing officer in charge of power train development in an interview with Automotive News, provided a few more details about the next Prius.TS040f9474bef347921817b70c1ba8548fd50  Saga hinted that the all-new Prius will be available with both nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.  That’s not too surprising considering that the standard Prius and it’s Plug-in sibling already come this way, but it suggests a wider application of Li-ion batteries across the Prius line.  The NiMH batteries would remain to help the Prius maintain a reasonably low entry-level price, while the more expensive, but deeper charge-rate Li-ion batteries would be available as an option, an “eco grade” for customers that want increased performance and range.  It is also worth mentioning that the Li-ion batteries are more powerful, but also lighter and more compact.  Another example would be the current Prius v which is only available with NiMH batteries in North America while the European and Japanese versions of the vehicle use the lighter, more compact Li-ion battery pack.

It is plausible that Toyota will apply electric-motor technology used in the automaker’s 24 Hours of Le Mans entry – the TS040 to the next Prius.  Toyota spokeswoman Amanda Rice told AutoblogGreen that the Le Mans race car “represents an advanced vehicle laboratory for hybrid vehicle and component  development.  The super capacitor technology used in this vehicle with its fast charge and discharge capability offers great possibility for production car use.”  Super capacitors have the ability to disperse and store large amounts of energy quicker than conventional batteries and provide short bursts of power to the electric motor under initial acceleration and conserve the battery power for constant-speed driving which requires less energy.

Toyota Motor Sport team principal, Yoshiaki Kinosshita suggested in an interview with Drive.com.au that the next-generation Prius could introduce an integrated hybrid storage system with a combination of a super capacitor and battery pack.  Kinoshita was quoted as saying that the super capacitor technology used at Le Mans is 60 times better under braking than a Prius.  “If we can bring some of this technology into the Prius then the Prius will be even better.”  Perhaps by combining fast-acting super capacitors with advanced battery technology Toyota’s hybrid drive system could add another 10% to the vehicle’s efficiency.  These fast-acting super capacitors combined with the other efficiency improvements will make the next Prius even better with energy, perhaps enabling Toyota to make the jump from 50 mpg to 60 or better.

Another innovation from Toyota that was announced earlier this year comes in the area of power electronics.  Toyota announced that it has the ability to improve mileage in its Microchannel Coldplatehybrids by about 5 per cent employing a chip type using silicon carbide that further reduces energy loss,  This is another step that would bring the next Prius closer yet to 60 mpg.

Some added ‘insurance’ that the 60 mpg goal for the next Prius is an attainable one can be inferred from a separate news release disclosing that Toyota R&D has developed a new heat transfer technology that can boost hybrid efficiency (are we starting to see a pattern here?).  Eric Dede, the manager of the Electronics Research Department at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan has invented a new Micro-channel Cold Plate that reduces energy loss and provides a 70% increase in heat transfer with a 50% reduction of pumping power.  This is elemental technology for future hybrid vehicle power electronic systems.  What that boils down to is the potential for another ( you guessed it) 10% increase in hybrid efficiency.

It is clear that Toyota wants a big surge in fuel economy for the next Prius, one of it’s more important cars.  Another key in this is quest is weight savings.  Fuel savings will come from a better hybrid system and a better engine but the all-important weight savings will be based on a new modular manufacturing strategy dubbed Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA).  Soichiro Okudaira, head of Toyota’s R&D group, has confirmed that the next Prius will be revolutionary, inside and out.  TNGA engineering calls for lower-slung vehicles with a lower center of gravity to improve handling and efficiency.  “When we look at the next-generation Prius,” Okudaira says, “we will have a new hybrid system.  We will make it even smaller, lighter and less expensive.  That will strengthen its commercial attractiveness.”  Given the momentum that the Prius has had over the last 14 years along with the enormous technological shift that has been happening in the auto industry we should count on a big improvement in miles per gallon when the next Prius is revealed at the end of next year.

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The Toyota Prius v Puts on a More Aggressive Face for 2015

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Family, Hybrids, Madison, News | Posted on 13-10-2014


2015-toyota-prius-v-3The Prius v (Prius+ in Europe) is getting the first facelift since its launch in 2012.  Following a design theme that Toyota has been implementing these days, the design re-fresh will feature sharper edges for a sportier look with thinner, more aero headlights and a big-mouthed trapezoidal grille intake vent.  The result is a more aggressive face with more sharp edges than the first generation.

New LED headlamps are set in slimmer, more aero bezels with chrome and black plating.  The glossy black front grille utilizes the trapezoid shape which has become formulaic with a number of Toyota models.  This creates an overall impression of a wider front end when combined with the re-designed vertical side vents and the slim LED daytime running lights.  The rear-end gets an updated look thanks to new tail lights with red lens as opposed to the clear LED lenses from the last model.  A diffuser integrated into the rear bumper adds to the drama.

Cosmetic changes to the cabin include dark silver metallic and chrome finishes to the trim and climate controls with a new infotainment system.  Befitting an eco-vehicle like the Prius, the new Prius v toyota-prius-v-gets-an-angry-face-for-2015_1connects the driver to an assortment of fuel efficiency data and hypermiling feedback to enhance the Eco Experience.  According to the European website autoevolution.com, one such upgrade is a little game called the Eco Judge in which the driver scores points based on their eco-driving abilities.

x2015-toyota-prius-v-2.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ylTH-CIXeh (1)rearMechanically, the 2015 Prius v will be powered by the same Hybrid Synergy Drive unit as before, but with a slightly re-tuned suspension for improved ride damping quality.  The previous Prius v had road-leveling technology that automatically adjusted the car’s balance and posture to variations in the road, so the ride must be getting even cushier now.  

Prices and full specs haven’t been announced yet and Toyota hasn’t announced the exact schedule.


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Matt Kenseth to Visit Smart Toyota

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Employees, Events, Family, Madison, News, Racing | Posted on 02-07-2014

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_MG_1039Local NASCAR fans will have a rare opportunity to meet one of racing’s current superstars, as Matt Kenseth visits Smart Toyota in Madison on Monday, July 14th. As some might expect of a small-town-Wisconsin born celebrity, Matt Kenseth, NASCAR standout, makes a concerted effort to reach his hometown crowd. Originally from nearby Cambridge, WI, Kenseth has been catapulted into the national limelight through years of impressive stock car racing. Although Kenseth currently resides in North Carolina, he still finds time to make it home to see his fans, and even to do a bit of racing. Recently, Kenseth took to his former home track at the Madison International Speedway, where he wowed and pleased fans with a hometown victory in his #8 Smart Toyota Camry. He’s scheduled to man the same car at Slinger Super Speedway on July 15th, as well. Prior to his race in Slinger, Matt Kenseth has again set aside time for fans, bringing his replica Dollar General race car to Smart Toyota in Madison. Guests will be given an opportunity to meet Matt for an autograph, see his car, and even test their skills in a NASCAR simulator.

2014 NASCAR Daytona 500

We’re ecstatic about the visit, as I’m sure many fans are, and are eager to see Kenseth’s replica race car, the NASCAR simulator, racing memorabilia, and Matt himself. The event is open to the public between 6 and 8 pm Monday evening, and guests interested in an autograph will be permitted after receiving a wristband, which will be distributed starting at 5pm. With opportunities to see and experience much of Kenseth’s racing world, this should prove to be an exciting evening for all in attendance.

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Some of the Smart Motors staff were on hand for Matt Kenseth’s recent victory at Madison Int’l Speedway


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It’s Tradition To Be A Bit Radical

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Community, Events, Family, Madison, News | Posted on 26-06-2014

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If someone asked you, “hey, want to go watch the Madison Radicals?” You would probably assume you had just been invited to witness a protest on the Capitol Square. You, however, would likely be mistaken. The Madison Radicals are, in fact, Madison’s very own professional Ultimate (Frisbee) team!RadFans

Professional ultimate is in its infancy in the US, with the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) only in its third year, and only the second season that Madison’s team has been competing. However, as many of Smart Motor’s loyal customers, fans, employees, and followers know, we’re big fans of staying ahead of the curve and checking out the latest and greatest before others have the chance. Which is why we decided to support and sponsor these high-flying local athletes, the Madison Radicals. If you’re one of the majority in the area who have never been to, and maybe even never heard of, a Radicals game, I suggest you check it out.LayoutBid

For those unfamiliar with the sport of “Ultimate,” it is an amalgamation of “better-known” sports; combining elements of football, basketball, hockey and soccer with the gravity-defying, childhood toy, the flying disc. You can check out the official Ultimate page for game play, rules, and regulations. The only thing you really need to know about Radicals Ultimate is that it’s F-U-N, fun! The atmosphere at games bring together some insanely athletic players, a goofy and enthusiastic crowd, outlandish intermission entertainment, and delicious local food and drink, all at the very cool historic Breese Stevens field on East Washington Ave.

SkyVSchillI’ve been fortunate to make several of this season’s games and neither the Radicals, nor their fans, disappoint. Well-executed offensive and defensive schemes tend to leave opponents in the proverbial dust, while a well-rounded crowd of 20-something goofballs, proud parents, and friendly local families pour on encouraging applause and chants. Several of the team’s sponsors engage the crowd with fun, between-quarters activities, including the Roman Candle’s pizza toss and the Great Dane’s costumed obstacle race. We at Smart Motors have yet to concoct an exciting halftime event, but, hey, we like suggestions.

As I mentioned, Smart Motors is not opposed to jump on an opportunity early or take a few risks once in a while, whether we’re investing in an Express Lube renovation, buying a body shop, or sponsoring a promising new sports team. Over the last 105 years, that strategy has worked out pretty well for Smart Motors. When you strive to be the biggest and best, sometimes you just have to do things that may seem a bit… well, radical!TeamNFans


Check out the Radical’s Facebook page to see more awesome pics!



- Matt Rice

Social Media Coordinator

Smart Motors Toyota & Scion

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Supporting Girls On The Run

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Community, Employees, Events, Health, Madison, News, Youth | Posted on 16-06-2014

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Two of our own employees take part in the 5k run

Recently, on Sunday, June 8, we proudly sponsored an event that aims to educate and empower young girls; Girls on the Run. This growing organization offers opportunities for young girls to learn about themselves and each other, gain mental, emotional, and physical health, as well as give back through a community project. A 10-week course of training, learning, and growing culminates in a fun 5K run, like the event this last weekend.

Representing Smart Motors at the event were employees Celia Kaiser and Nancy Lorrig. Both women ran the 5K race in support of local girls. Celia was impressed by “all of the support from families and friends that were there.” With nearly 900 girls participating, and nearly every Madison area elementary school represented, there was certainly an excellent turnout. “I was shocked by how many spectators there were,” said Celia. Our Scion Manager, Donnie Taylor, who was at the event to cheer on and support his daughter, expressed similar sentiment, saying, “ I was surprised by the number of people!”

The opportunity to support this event and organization is important to the success of our business, and other local businesses. Like many local, family owned businesses, we measure our success not only by our income or ability to grow, but also by the impact that we have in our community.  One of the tenants of the GOTR curriculum is “My community begins with me,” which we at Smart Motors certainly relate to.  Supporting organizations that can enhance the health and education of our local youth is an opportunity for us to contribute to our vibrant and welcoming community.

- Matt Rice

Social Media Coordinator

Smart Motors Toyota & Scion

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Smiles abound at Youth Triathlon

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Community, Events, Madison, News | Posted on 11-06-2014

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waunakee 2014 little boy finishersThere are few greater things than putting a smile on a satisfied customer’s face, and we at Smart Motors strive to do that hundreds of times a day through our Toyota service department, new and used car sales, and at Ball Body Shop. One of the few exceptions, though, would be helping to put smiles on children’s faces, which is something that we also love to do. This year, we’ve partnered with an awesome local organization, Tri 4 Schools, who organizes youth triathlons, fun-runs, and even fun training courses to help promote physical activity among local kids. This partnership is a fantastic way for us to give back to the local community, and provides some especially great smile-inducing moments.

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On Saturday May 3rd, Tri 4 Schools held its first youth triathlon of the season at Waunakee High School. This year’s event sold out, at 500 students ages 3-14 who competed in three different levels of racing. The exceptional turnout of athletes was matched by the enthusiastic support of friends, family, and community, including over 100 volunteers who helped cheer on and support racers, and kept the whole event fun and safe. The cool May morning brought some stiff winds that undoubtedly challenged the racers, but failed to deter anyone’s high spirits or infectious grins.


Through swimming, biking, and running it was obvious that both first-time and experienced racers alike enjoyed the camaraderie and light-hearted competition among friends and peers. I was especially impressed by the enthusiastic complements that the volunteers, parents, and other spectators had for all the participants. Congratulations for a job-well-done were in abundance and the radiant smiles of all in attendance made the collective pride the racers had for themselves and others, quite apparent.



Not only was the Waunakee Youth Triathlon a fun, enjoyable event, but also proved successful for Tri 4 Schools, who raised nearly $12,000 at this year’s race. Tri 4 Schools commits money from race registrations back to local schools, who in-turn, invest the money in physical education curriculum, equipment, and other materials.

Opportunities to work with forward thinking local organizations like Tri 4 Schools are a great way to give back to a community that has supported the Smart Motors family for over 100 years, and we’re grateful to be a part of their efforts. Being witness to these young students’ perseverance and success is an excellent reminder to try our best in all we do. We’re committed to staying active in our community, and committed to providing our friends, guests, and customers the outstanding service they deserve and have come to expect from us.



The next Tri 4 Schools youth Triathlon will be in Middleton on Saturday, August 16, and we can’t wait!!!

To register for upcoming events, volunteer, or just learn more about Tri 4 Schools, visit their website - http://www.tri4schools.com/


waunakee finisher trophyIMG_0289IMG_0294waunakee 2014 smiling finishers

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New Silicon Carbide Semi-Conductors Could Boost the Efficiency of Toyota’s Hybrids By Up to Ten Percent

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Hybrids, News | Posted on 20-05-2014


In the spirit of one of Toyota’s vital principles, Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) the company has developed a new semiconductor it says can boost fuel efficiency in hybrid cars such as the Prius by up to 10 percent.

The world’s largest manufacturer of gasoline-electric cars with it’s relentless efficiency improvements aims to extend its lead in hybrid technology.  This particular advancement, which was developed with Toyota’s in-house technology partner Denso, is focused on the semiconductors that manage the flow of electricity through the power control unit (PCU) that integrates a hybrid’s battery, motor and generator.  The new semiconductors utilize only a tenth of the energy that today’s chips gobble up and enable the PCU to be 80 percent smaller, according to Toyota’s press release.

The technology has the potential to deliver a ten percent increase in fuel efficiency because less energy is lost when the battery powers the car’s electric motor or when regenerative braking recharges the battery.  Better internal combustion engines (ICEs), traction batteries and aerodynamics are a key part of Toyota’s plans for future hybrids, including the next generation Prius.  But the company has targeted the performance of these power-hungry PCU chips that also sap energy.

Although Toyota still has a commanding sales lead in the hybrid segment, especially with the pioneering segment-leading Prius, competition had gotten keener and the world’s largest producer has been ramping up research on ways to squeeze out better mpg.  “We are aiming for great improvement in fuel economy and miniaturization, says Kimimori Hamada, the project manager of Toyota’s electronics development division.

Toyota opened a vast semiconductor development center at its Hirose plant in Toyota City last year to expand this new technology.  That facility already makes semiconductors for Toyota’s existing hybrid systems.  Toyota has historically developed hybrid technology and components in-house, starting with the development of the first-generation Prius which began in 1993 and the car company holds over two  thousand of patents on hybrid systems and components.

Toyota’s new approach with semiconductors is to use silicon carbide (SiC), instead of simply silicon, to make the semiconductor wafers.  Silicon carbide wafers have a few distinct advantages.  Just as an internal combustion engine experiences ineffiency due to heat loss, whenever energy (in this case current) passes through the PCU semiconductor, power is lost as heat.  In fact, Toyota says, semiconductors account for about 20 percent of all power loss in hybrid systems.

toyotadeveloSilicon carbide semiconductors experience only a tenth of the energy loss of the silicon-based chips in use today.  Also, Toyota engineers say that silicon carbide semiconductors can switch on and off at much higher frequencies.  That makes them more efficient and obviates the need for space-clogging coils and capacitors that are used in PCUs to temporarily store power.  Capacitors and coils take up about 40 percent of the space in a typical PCU.  Because fewer of these components are needed with silicon carbide semiconductors, the overall size and weight of the PCU can be made 80 percent smaller.  The new PCU is about the size of a shoe box.  The new silicon carbide semiconductors will be applicable to hybrid, all-electric or fuel cell power trains and can be mated to lithium ion or nickel-metal hydride batteries according to Toyota’s press release.

Toyota’s next generation Prius is already expected to see a 10 percent improvement in efficiency compared to the current model, with a touted fuel economy just above 55 mpg.  The new semiconductors have not been confirmed for the next Prius, though Toyota does say it intends to “boost development activities” so that it can implement the technology sooner, not later.  Each Prius generation has come with a 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the outgoing model and the next Prius will surely benefit from this.  Add the fact that Toyota is also developing new, highly efficient gasoline engines that achieve an amazing thermal efficiency and fuel efficiency improvements of at least 10 percent and you can count on the the next Prius being the most efficient hybrid so far.

  Sources: Toyota Pressroom, Toyota GB, Automotive News, autorevolution.com, greencarreport


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Toyota President’s Award

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Awards, Car Care, Car Maintenance, Community, Employees, Madison, News | Posted on 23-04-2014

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Toyota’s President’s Award is a highly regarded distinction that is bestowed upon dealerships who excel in all facets of their operations.IMG_0675

Recognition as a President’s Award winner signifies that a dealership has shown not just high sales performance, but has provided outstanding customer service throughout sales and service transactions. These Award winning dealerships display high service retention rates and employ a variety of Toyota Certified staff among their sales and service representatives. We at Smart Motors have recently been awarded the Toyota’s President’s Award for 2013.



Smart Toyota has earned the prestigious President’s Award seven years in a row since 2007. What does that mean to the average shopper looking for a new vehicle or service center? It means that our customers are happy customers! We’ve met and exceeded expectations far more often than not, and have given thousands of customers good reason to return to our business. The award shows that our staff is knowledgeable and friendly and that, company wide, our commitment to customer satisfaction continues through the life of a customer’s vehicle, not the length of their visit.



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Smart Express Lube – Remodeled and Reopen

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Car Care, Car Maintenance, Driving, Madison, Service | Posted on 27-02-2014

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After nearly 4 months of destruction and subsequent reconstruction, the Smart Motors Express Lube is back to full-speed! As an “Express” lube facility, timeliness is essential. Our recently renovated no-appointment Express Lube facility has practically doubled in size, with literally twice as many service bays and a larger and more comfortable and convenient guest lounge.


The reasoning behind the renovation was the aforementioned essential: timeliness! Our service customer base grows steadily every year and our hard-working Express Lube employees were becoming limited by their facilities and equipment, causing prolonged visits for our customers. Adding four additional bays to the four existing bays, all complete with the necessary equipment to perform routine oil and filter changes, tire rotation and repair, and a variety of other related services, will provide the staff with the space and tools necessary to quickly and conveniently serve our incoming guests.


What has become somewhat routine for us here at Smart Motors in recent years, this substantial project was deemed essential for our continued growth, with long-term benefits greatly outweighing some short-term setbacks and challenges. The expanded Express Lube is sure to offer the outstanding service that Smart Motors customers have come to expect, combined with convenient no-schedule maintenance and lots of practical amenities that make for comfortable visits. The best part? Now we can accommodate even more guests and be introduced to new customers.


Whether you’re due for your next oil change, or have yet to experience Smart Motors’ award-winning service, come check out the newly expanded Express Lube.



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