Meet The Smart Team – Ashley H.

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Community, Employees, Family, Madison, Service | Posted on 30-10-2013

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Here at Smart Motors, we know we’ve got some of the nicest, smartest, and most interesting people around the Madison area, but you may not be aware. So, in an effort to introduce some of our spectacular team, we’ll be presenting quick interview-style profiles. Today I sat down with Smart Motors HR Generalist, Ashley. Like all of our employees, Ashley plays an essential role in our everyday operations, and is an integral part of the smooth running Smart Motors machine. Take a few minutes to learn more about Ashley, and stay tuned for more chances to “Meet The Smart Team.”

 

(Matt) Is this your first interview?

(Ashley) Yes it is

Mine too, so this should go well!

Ash_Profile

 

I know you’re from Madison, can you tell me more about your background? 

I was born and raised in Madison, graduated form Madison East High School, and then went to college, starting out as a nursing major. I went home for a summer and worked for Kraft, where I got placed in their HR department and really liked it. I eventually graduated with my degree in human resources management from the university of Wisconsin Eau Claire, and I also obtained my PHR, a certificate for professionals of human resources.

I didn’t know that you started at college for nursing. What intrigued you about nursing?

Probably the same thing that brought me to human resources, which is helping people.

 

It sounds like there was carry over that you may have not realized. Are there some things that you’re able to do here that you may have been able to in nursing?

Sure, helping and teaching. I like being around other people and learning about others likes and dislike, and helping in general.

Ash_Parade

 

What are some of the main responsibilities you have here at Smart Motors?

I do payroll, pre-screening and hiring for new employees, as well as assist managers with disciplinary situations. Benefits administration management is also a prominent part of the position.

 

You said you’ve been here for nearly 6 years. What do you like and what has kept you here?

I love our culture. We are a family owned business, and I like that we try to keep that family atmosphere here, which can be difficult with continuous growth.  That’s where Human Resources comes in, putting on United Way events, or an employee appreciation party when we got the Presidents Cabinet award, bringing people together.  Running blood drives and getting out into the community makes work more familiar and comfortable, too. It doesn’t hurt that I like the people I work with, as well!

Ash_RedCross

 

You mentioned United Way and blood drives, among other events to try and engage the employees with community partners. Is that something you’ve been a big part of?

I’ve been the campaign leader and manager for the United way since I’ve been here. I love that part of my job. I do also organize the blood drives.

 

Is it easy to engage the employees with these efforts, or is it a Smart Motors mandate? Are the employees excited to participate?

Yeah, I think the employees are excited to participate; it’s evident when we do fun events, like chili cook-offs and United Way privilege week. No one has to do those things, it’s just fun and people enjoy coming to work when there are fun events. The blood drive is dependent on employee participation, and we always exceed our goal. We’re working towards expanding this with more employees and even customers. I don’t’ think the events would do well if the employees weren’t engaged, and we would probably stop doing them altogether. We also have Smart Motors volleyball and Softball teams, which are obviously the choice of employees. It’s good to see people wanting to spend time with some co-workers outside of work.

 

You obviously enjoy being involved in the UW and blood drive; do you find yourself getting involved with these organizations, or others, outside of work?

I do, I’m actually on the board of directors for 4-C’s (Community Coordinated Child Care), which is a community based childcare organization, a not-for profit in Madison. I’m in the first year of my term there. They’re directly supported by United Way, which we are involved with here. Since they’re a non profit and don’t have staff for certain positions, they can ask me human resources questions about policy, or things like the Affordable Care Act. They may need some guidance from another professional, so I’ve volunteered to offer my service and expertise.

Ash_VB

You’re from the Madison area. What’s kept you in Madison and what do you personally like about the city?

I love Madison’s diversity, the variety of lifestyle between East and West Madison.  I appreciate both for different reasons, East because I grew up there, and West because it has better shopping (laughs)! The events are great too: Bratfest, Taste of Madison, Rhythm and booms is always fun…we’re not a huge city, but it’s definitely a fun area. §

 

That’s it; a quick glimpse at one of Smart’s fantastic employees. We’ll be showing off more of our excellent staff in the future, so come back in the months to come.

 

 

 

Written By Matt Rice – Smart Motors’ Social Media Coordinator

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Winter Pests: Keeping Rodents out of Your Vehicle

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Auto Body, Automotive, Car Care, Car Maintenance, Driving, Pest Control, Winter Driving | Posted on 23-10-2013

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Does anyone remember Klondike Kat anymore?  His motto was:  “Klondike Kat always gets his mouse!”  Of course, he never did, but many of us could use a mouse catcher for our cars this time of year.

As the weather turns colder, rodents like mice and even rats look for warm places to nest and get away from the elements, and many find cars to be an ideal option.  Vehicles tend to be warm, dry, and full of little places to hide from predators.  Unfortunately, once these animals get inside, they tend to do a lot of damage.

A common hang out for these pests is under the hood, and they like to get inside things like the air filter housing, where they will chew up the filter to make nesting material.  Small animals will also go under the hood insulation, often dragging food along with them, like dog food, bird seed, acorns and walnuts.  If they don’t have food to bring along, they may feast on the wiring in the engine compartment and wreak havoc on your ability to drive the car.

Rodents can find their way inside the car, as well.  They typically can enter through the ventilation system, and love to nest near the heater fan, which is generally located behind the glove box on the right side of the dash, nearby or directly above the heater core.  The heater core stays warm long after you leave the car and have turned off the engine, making this spot an ideal nesting area.  These critters pack food and nesting material inside the fan blade, which looks similar to a hamster wheel, and throw the blade out of balance, causing noise and vibration during operation.  Other problems stemming from this include blocked vents, which impedes airflow, as well as complications from chewed wiring.

Mice_Fan_Compartment

Now, it’s bad enough to think about mice living in your vehicle, but it can get worse:  they can die inside the engine compartment or vehicle, as well.  Whether these bothersome tenants meet their demise trying to escape fan blades, chewing electrified wires, or otherwise, the outcome remains the same. The often hard-to-find remains can be foul smelling and continue to contribute to the aforementioned problems. Finding the culprit and eliminating the damage and the odor can be difficult and expensive.  How big of a problem is this?  We have seen damage over $10,000 caused by rodents.  And we see about one vehicle per week during the warm months with a problem, and sometimes 4 or 5 per week when the weather turns cold.  Fortunately for some owners, comprehensive insurance usually covers the cost of repairs (see your agent for coverage).

 

The best solution to this problem is to avoid the problem in the first place. Below are several tips that should help prevent rodents from exploring your chariot.

 

  1. Don’t store pet food or bird food in a garage or outside unless it is in a tightly sealed, mouse-proof container.  Food attracts rodents, and they will take that food into your car.mice-dryer-sheet
  2. Depending on how you feel about trapping, killing, or poisoning mice, the best way to keep them out of your car is to keep them out of your garage.  Setting traps or poison baits are one way, but moth-balls strategically placed in a garage (away from children and pets) can also be effective.
  3. Many boat and RV owners will stuff fabric softener sheets into compartments when the vehicles are put into storage.  Placing Bounce fabric softener sheets in the glove box, under the seats and even inside the hood insulation may keep mice away.  There is the added benefit of that fresh laundry smell, too!mice_vacuum
  4. Throw away garbage in your car.  Those dropped French fries between the seats are attractants to animals.  Keeping the interior clean will help keep the mice away.
  5. Get a cat!

 

 

A little prevention can go a long way to protecting your car from invasion this fall and winter, and can potentially save you from costly cleaning and repairs.

Cat-and-Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Matt Jones – Smart Motors Service Manager

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Plug-in Day: Electric Cars, Plug-in Hybrids Whizz and Whirr Up the Winding Road to Acceptance

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Events, Hybrids, News | Posted on 15-10-2013

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DSCN0480The Third Annual National Plug-in Day held recently, included events in nearly 100 cities around the world.  Plug-in and electric car enthusiasts came together for an annual celebration of driving cars with a cord.  Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are increasingly popular and the world-wide event drew more than double the attendees compared to the year before.  The primary feature of each event was displaying the plug-in vehicles from the major automakers as well as the newcomers.  Scores of people had their first experience with vehicles that burn little or no gas.  This was the most important element of the event because most advocates believe that familiarity is the absolute key to popular acceptance of these vehicles and National Plug-in Day raised the bar on what is possible!

National Plug-in Day is ongoing proof that Americans, and drivers the world over are keen to drive vehicles that use little or no gasoline, cut down on airborne pollutants and keep1383193_365819993552808_2127503790_n our fuel dollars local.  The Silicon Valley event in Cupertino was a perfect example of the growth of the event, where approximately 2,000 attendees checked out nearly 300 vehicles on display from 20 major automakers.  Events in Seattle and the Los Angeles area had similar turnouts.  In Nashville, Nissan decided to promote electric cars by giving away free gasoline.  Cities from Maine to Hawaii hosted similar events and many saw a big increase in attendance compared to last year.  Initial numbers from Plug-in America, a coalition of first generation RAV4 EV owners and former lessees of Honda EV+, GM EV1, Ford Ranger and Ford Think City electrics from the “Who Killed the Electric Car?” era and long-time Plug-in advocates, pegged total US attendance at between 40,000 and 50,000 people.  According to the organizers, that’s a 43 percent boost in participation.

Closer to home, the Upper Midwest Plug-in Day held in Madison, Wisconsin featured over 25 electric vehicles on display, along with demonstrations, owner testimonials and test drives.  Some of the vehicles on display included home-built and concept vehicles along with all-electrics (Nissan LEAF and Tesla).  Various Plug-in Hybrids (Plug-in Priuses, Gen ll Prius Plug-in modifications, Ford C-Max Energi, Chevy Volt, and Wheego) were all equally represented.  Electric bikes and mopeds were also featured at the event.  Flux Mopeds of Madison, Len’s Electric Bikes and Ride Green Bikes of Milwaukee showed off their clean, quiet, 100% electric offerings.  In addition, Madison Gas and Electric was on hand to talk about their Madison-wide electric vehicle charging network and answer all power-related questions.  There were plenty of EV owners on hand sharing information on what its like to own and drive a plug-in vehicle.

National Plug-in Day was also marked in Sauk City, Wisconsin where the Free Congregation of Sauk County held a Free Forum on Energy, Climate and Our Future.  The social and environmental responsibility of cleanDSCN0557 energy was the theme of the day and Plug-in vehicles were on display outside of Freethinker’s Hall.  A Prius Plug-in, a Nissan Leaf and a Chevy Volt were on display and there were representatives on hand to answer all the questions.

Electric drive enthusiasts had plenty of success to celebrate on Plug-in Day.  Still, plug-ins only make up a tiny segment of the total auto market.  Slowly but surely, as National Plug-in Day underscores, many people are making that change, and the mainstream auto industry has taken note.  Higher fuel-efficiency standards and government subsidies have shifted the center-of-gravity a little more toward Plug-in and EV vehicles and it appears no automaker wants to be the one not moving forward with this technology.

The good news for consumers is that automakers have been dropping the prices of hybrids and EVs, making it easier to get into the game.  Reuters says that “automakers have slashed prices on their electric cars to help overcome consumer qualms about high costs and fears of driving range.”  This has been borne out by plug-in sales which have remained high month by month this year.  Sales rose as prices for these vehicles came down.  Recently, the Plug-in Prius joined the Volt and the Leaf at a lowered price-point as Toyota dropped the price of the 2014 model.  Toyota has always been very good at making complex electromechanical systems smaller, cheaper and more reliable.  And a lesson learned from the early history of the Prius just might indicate that Plug-ins may have an advantage at this stage of their history that the Prius did not – when the 2001 Prius went on sale in the United States Toyota sold only small numbers of that first gas-electric from 2001 through 2003, but it had big plans for the little hybrid from the start.

DSCN0558With the re-designed second-generation Prius in 2004, Toyota had a winner.  Since then, Prius sales have never looked back and now there is a family line of separate Prius vehicles, which are now Toyota’s third best-selling passenger car in the United States market.  The success of the Prius and the company’s hybrids in general, has paved the way for a much earlier acceptance of plug-in hybrids and EVs compared to early hybrid history.  According to the United States Department of Energy, around 40,000 plug-in electric vehicles were purchased by Americans in the first six months of 2013, that’s more than double the amount sold throughout the same period last year.  In 2012 there were 52,000 EVs sold, which was an increase from 17,000 in 2011.

So, compared to hybrid cars — which took about a decade to catch on in the U.S. and now represent four percent of the total car market — electric vehicles are doing better earlier in the cycle, historically, than hybrids after their first 30 months on the market. There were about 3,000 hybrids sold per month 30 months after the cars were first introduced.  Over the same time period, plug-in electric vehicles are selling at a rate of about 9,000 per month.  It is clear that there is a growing segment of car-buyers who are ready for this technology.

 

DSCN0559Toyota has always taken a long-term view of hybrid-electric technology planning not only in five year and ten year cycles, but twenty-five and even fifty year plans, as well.  This has worked out very well for Toyota.  Today, the company has built 5 million hybrids and sells 23 different hybrids around the world – and has plans to launch additional hybrid models each year going forward along with a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle coming on the market in 2015!  DSCN0560

 

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