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

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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 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

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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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Getting to know Gompo

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Community, Family, Madison, News | Posted on 21-01-2014

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Through a connection with local organization, Chenrezig Fund, we have been able to support a young boy in India, and help provide him with necessary education.

Our young friend’s name is Gompo Dorjee, a ten year old Tibetan boy who lives in Delhi India. The youngest of three, Gompo has followed his two older brothers to the Tibetan Children’s Home where he is learning Tibetan, as well as Hindi and English. We have exchanged some correspondence with Gompo and it is obvious that he is a good spirited young man who enjoys the company of his brothers and friends at the school. Below is a Christmas message he sent us, as well as some photos. We look forward to hearing more from Gompo and to learn about his progress in school.

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Dear Sponsor,

Tashi Delek! How are you? Hope you are fine there. Here I am also fine and doing my studies well. One final exam is finished now and I am going to class 5. I am very happy because Christmas day is coming near I hope you also [are happy]. In our Hostel I had two best friends. We always play football because I love to play football and my favorite color is green and blue. How’s weather there? Here lots of cold and I am very lucky that I had got such a father like you. I will never forget your support. Lastly I will pray for your long life and may all your dreams come true. Wishing you a merry Christmas and happy new year.

Your Son,

Gompo Dorjee

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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!

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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!

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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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Prevent Car Trouble on Summer Trips

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Driving, Family, News, Service | Posted on 02-07-2013

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Heading off for a summer road trip?  Here are a few pointers to help ensure that your trip goes smoothly.

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WHAT TO CHECK BEFORE YOU LEAVE

Tire Pressure – Tires should be inflated to manufacturer’s recommendation; you can find the recommended tire pressure label inside the driver door-jamb, in the glove box of most vehicles, or in the owner’s manual.  Under-inflated tires become hot, and can cause a blow-out.   Properly inflated tires also save on fuel.  Also, check your spare to make sure it is ready to use just in case.

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Check your door-jamb for tire and inflation information

Coolant – Make sure your anti-freeze/coolant is up to date and the level is full.  Use only the coolant recommended by the manufacturer for your particular car, and have it serviced according to the recommended maintenance schedule.

Washer Fluid and Wiper Blades – With plenty of bugs flying this time of year you need to make sure you have a full tank of washer fluid.  Make sure your wipers don’t streak, and that the rubber is not split or torn.  Wipers should typically be changed once per year.

Engine Oil – Check your oil level, making sure it is on the full mark.  Double check that your service is up to date, and if your trip will cause you to exceed the mileage that is recommended for your next oil change, change it early.  Clean oil will protect your engine and keep it cooler better than dirty oil.

Battery – Hot weather is actually harder on batteries than cold weather.  Inspect your battery terminals for excess corrosion.  Corrosion can be cleaned off by making a paste with baking soda and water and scrubbing off with a wire brush.  If your battery is older, it is a good idea to have it checked before you go on a long trip.  Any signs of acid leakage and the battery should be replaced.

Belts and Hoses – Visually check that hoses do not appear to be leaking or bulging.  Look at the underside of the belts, and if there are any cracks in the ribbing, the belts should be changed.

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Replace cracked belts

Lights – Make sure all lights work, including license plate and side-marker lights.  Make sure the headlamp lenses are clean and clear for best night driving.

 

WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU

First Aid Kit – Have basic supplies like bandages, burn ointment, insect bite treatment, anti-biotic ointment and alcohol wipes available.

Water – You never know if you will find yourself stuck in a traffic jam on a hot day and not be able to get off the road to get drinks.  Have water for all occupants available.  Power bars are also good to have on hand in case you can’t get to food easily.

A Fully-Charged Cell Phone – Today’s cell phones are loaded with useful options from GPS to lodging suggestions. Of course, in an emergency, the ability to contact help is the phone’s most valuable function. Also, purchasing a car charger for your phone will ensure you’ve always got enough battery life.

A Flashlight with Fresh Batteries – Whether you have to locate lost items under seats, change a tire in the dark, or flag down assistance, a flashlight can prove very useful. Many smart phones can be used as a short-term flashlight by simply downloading an app.

A Road Atlas – GPS is great, but not always perfect for finding detours.

A Rain Suit – Even large trash bags can be used in a pinch, but it is a good idea to have rain protection in case you have to change a tire in bad weather.

 

OTHER FUEL SAVING TIPS

In addition to making sure your tires are properly inflated, here a few other tips to help save fuel:

Use Cruise Control – Studies have shown that by maintaining a steady speed over all terrains by using cruise control, you will improve your fuel economy.

Use A/C – It may sound counterintuitive, but A/C is more efficient than opening windows, because open windows create excessive drag.  The most efficient is to do neither, but driving in a hot car can speed up driver fatigue.

Drive the Speed Limit – As unpopular as this might sound, every 5 mph you add will decrease your fuel economy by up to 10%.  It becomes more pronounced over 65 mph.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you have a safe and trouble-free summer road trip!

 – From Contributor, Matt Jones, Smart Toyota Service Manager and 18+ year automotive service and repair professional

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