Preserving the Life of Your Vehicle

Earlier this year AutoMD.com reported that Americans are keeping their vehicles longer than ever– just under 11 years.  Visit your local used car lot and you’ll see that trend represented in a decreased supply.  The inventory that is available often sports higher than usual odometer readings.  So, if we’re hanging on to our cars longer than ever it would behoove us to take care of them, yes?

Our plan here was to assemble a list of basic car-care tips culled from a variety of sources.  But then we stumbled upon one website that did such a comprehensive job of wrapping up automotive maintenance and care that knew we couldn’t top it.  Thanks to Reader’s Digest for this list of “74 Car Care Tips to Keep Your Automobile in Topnotch Condition”:

http://www.rd.com/advice/saving-money/74-car-care-tips-to-keep-your-automobile-in-topnotch-condition/

P.S.  We’d love to hear how you take care of your car or truck… did this list miss anything?

Intangibles… or, What Makes Your Vehicle “Yours”?

We recently received an email from a potential customer we’d spent a considerable amount of time with; a man in search of a new car for his wife. The letter was lovely, appreciative… and apologetic. Because while he had considered all the cars we’d shown him to be excellent choices, she had not fallen in love with any of them.

“Love” is one of those words you could define for the rest of your life and never unravel its essence. When it comes to “loving” a hunk of steel on four wheels (or two… motorcycle lovers are a loyal breed) there are the pragmatic issues: Can I afford it? How’s the gas mileage? Is there seating for the whole family? There are the aesthetic issues: Do I like the way it looks? Does the color fit my personality? Will the beige interior stain when the kids spill grape juice? And then there’s the grand intangible: Does it feel like me?
There are those who say a vehicle “fits” them if they can afford it and it meets certain rational needs like towing capacity, payload, comfort. But others of us look for the *irrational*. I’ve driven – and enjoyed – lots of cars and trucks and, if given the option of having more than one set of wheels in my driveway, I might even consider signing on the dotted line. But just because I have fun in, and appreciate the many attributes of, a vehicle does NOT mean I’d want to own it. I know what I’m looking for, and it’s not stuff that can be explained (see http://butlerautogroup.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/left-brain-or-right-brain-which-side-makes-your-vehicle-decisions/) although I do have to like the way it drives, feel safe and comfortable, and be able to afford the payments (guess the the Batmobile’s out of the picture). Other features, like power windows, I can live without. I’m looking for something low-maintenance, fun-driven, adventurous, durable… kinda like a Tonka truck. What makes a vehicle feel like it fits you? What’re your intangibles?

Of Kayaks, Cards and Corporate Policy: Why Butler Takes the Cake

It is so much fun to say this: Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did! Family, friends, even strangers heaped so much love on me during the first few hours of my birthday last week that it didn’t seem possible anyone could top it. But, I work at Butler so, I should have known better.

This is what I arrived at work to find: my office brilliantly decorated with kayak-themed lights, trinkets and balloons, blue streamers swaying from the ceiling in a not-half-bad swirling eddy imitation. Flowers, cards, candy, one too-pretty-to-be-real cupcake, and a cake so cute I wanted to hang it on the wall.

From my perspective, this is what it means to work for Butler Automotive; to feel understood, appreciated and loved, and not in a phony corporate-policy, here’s-a-key-chain-with-our-logo-on-it kind of way. There is warmth and heart in this company. And even though the auto business can be challenging, the fact that we like each other makes the work fun… and, when not fun, at least manageable. When we say we are a family, we mean it. And when it comes to a job I already love, working with such a close-knit family is icing on the cake.

My sincerest thanks to Chuck and Linda Butler, Warren Cooper, and my marketing partners-in-crime Karen and Kayla, for making me feel like the most special birthday girl on earth.

The Hows, Whens, and Whys of Washing Your Car

It used to be a good car wash was all it took to remind me how much I loved my vehicle. That was back before the evergreens lining the driveway generously
dribbled sap on the hood, before a flight of dragonflies sacrificed itself on the grille, before I ran out of the energy required to break out the turtle wax and elbow grease on a regular basis. As you know, hindsight is 20/20 and, if I’d known what a few years of neglect could do to an otherwise beautiful sport utility wagon, well… Oh, who’m I kidding? I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

But if I had, what would it have looked like?

  1. I’d have chosen a shady spot in which to bathe my baby since direct sunlight can dry some areas faster than others, leaving streaks or spots. I also would have made sure the vehicle was relatively cool to the touch.
  2. I would have filled two buckets – one with clean water, the other with a mixture of water and an approved vehicle cleaner (see mixing directions on the the product container). Experts say NEVER to use household detergents
    like dish soap as they can strip the wax from your paint job, leaving the
    layers underneath more susceptible to damage.
  3. I would have rinsed the entire vehicle to flush away all loose debris.
  4. I would have readied a couple microfiber wash mitts – or natural sea sponge, sheepskin, or cotton chenille towels – for washing. They are softer and less likely to trap debris that can scratch paint.
  5. If I were cleaning wheels and tires, now would have been the time to do it. I’d’ve been sure to thoroughly rinse each before moving on to the next. When
    finished with this step, I would have thrown the used towels/mitts in the
    laundry and grabbed new ones for washing the body.
  6. I would’ve washed the vehicle in sections from the top down, rinsing the mitt/towel in the clean water before dunking it back in the soap solution.
  7. When the entire surface area was clean, I’d have taken the nozzle off the hose and let water run freely over the entire vehicle, from the top down.
  8. I’d have dried the vehicle with a microfiber drying towel (NO terry cloth or bath towels! They can shed lint and most are not likely to be paint-safe) starting
    with the windows/mirrors, moving to the auto body, catching the
    under-and-insides of car, trunk and hood jambs, and finally used a separate towel to dry the wheels and towels.

Experts recommend washing your vehicle once a week. That may sound excessive but contaminants, like sap, dead insects, and bird droppings, can eat away at your paint and, the longer you let them sit, the more damage you’ll have to repair. When it comes to the frequency of *waxing*, however, opinions vary. You’ll have to consider factors like your
geographic location, whether your vehicle spends most of the time parked indoors or outdoors, the quality of paint, and just how much energy you really want to expend.

Or, you can just do what I do: buy an aged 4-wheel drive SUV and pretend its rugged image is just enhanced by that layer of filth.

(For more detailed instruction and product suggestions, visit:

Tips Series – Washing 101

OR

http://www.autogeek.net/exterior.html)

We’re Holding the First Ever Butler Auto “Pets & Rides” Photo Contest!

What is it about riding in a car or truck that has dogs immediately thrusting their head out the window, tongue out, lapping at the breeze? I’ll never know but it sure is
funny to see! That’s why we’re giving you the opportunity to share your pet’s travel personality with us in our new Pet-n-Rides Photo Contest!

It’s easy! Snap a pic of your pet – whether it’s a dog, cat, bird, lizard, you name it… even a pet rock! – in, on or near your vehicle, and get it to us one of three ways: email
it to customersfirst@gmail.com, post it to our Butler Auto Group Facebook page, or drop it off at our Ashland location at 1899 Highway 99 North. We’ll post all entries on Facebook for the world to see. Then, the judges will get their say on July 31st. Check out the flier for the prizes… they’re fantastic!

Okay, Rover… Say “Cheese!”

The DL on QR Codes (Translation: “Down Low” or “What the Heck is a QR Code?”)

It’s funny how the universe puts us where we need to be.  Funny and reassuring, and… occasionally frustrating… almost like there’s a booming voice from above saying, “You may not like it now but you’ll thank me later.”    Take, for example, a painfully shy 18-year old who couldn’t book a dentist appointment without feeling butterflies.  What happened?  A well-known local weatherman “discovered” her and dragged her, against her will, into television.  That was 20 years, 2 months ago and now, I can talk to anyone.  Thank you, Universe.

But there are things I’m still fighting, one of which is technology.  I prefer real books over Kindles; car windows that roll down, and cell phones that exist primarily to make phone calls.  I am behind the tech curve and I like it that way. So, of course, technology is being introduced into my world at a dizzying speed. 

Enter the QR, or quick response, code, also known as a tag.  You may have already seen them, in magazines or on advertisements.  Here’s one for Butler’s Service Centers: 

The tags originated in Japan and operate like barcodes in that they’re chock full of information goodness when read by a scanner.    So, bust out your Smart Phone, download a QR reader app (check http://www.qrstuff.com/qr_phone_software.html to see which app will work for your phone) and scan the code to see what comes up.  QR codes can be encrypted with all kinds of data so they’re ideal for cramming a ton of information into tiny spaces.

Acura’s already using QR codes in its glossy car brochures.  In fact, many pages in said brochure sport nothing but photos, no text.   It’s not hard to imagine a day in the not too distant future when every vehicle for sale will have a code on the sticker.  One scan and you’d know not only that vehicle’s specifications but also what accolades it’s garnered or even, in the case of a pre-owned car/truck, its history.

We at Butler see where this is going so we’re getting on the band wagon.  Look for QR tags to show up on our marketing materials as well as our inventory in the not too distant future.  If your phone isn’t equipped to read a QR code, it might be time for a new phone.

You may not like it now but you’ll thank me later.

Butler Supports “Red Shirt Fridays”

In the same way that people sometimes start to look like their pets, have you ever noticed how co-workers often dress in similar ways?  It used to happen all the time when I worked in television news … some days all our anchors and reporters would wear the same colors.  It wasn’t like we planned it… we just ended up on the same wavelength and started making similar choices.

So, that’s kinda what I thought was going on around the Ford and Acura dealerships when every so often I’d notice everyone matched.  What didn’t occur to me was that the pattern was consistent:  every Friday most of the sales and service staff would wear red.  That fact floated around in the recesses of my brain, something to ask about if and when the question made its way into my consciousness and out my mouth.

But I didn’t have to ask (apparently, we DO mind read around here!)  Out of the blue, Ford Service Manager Gary Neal sent me an email.  The subject line read, “FYI” and the message was brief:  “Shannon, Just in case you were wondering why most of the guys wear red shirts on Fridays.” He’d included the web address http://www.redshirtfridays.org/.  Now I know Red Shirt Fridays are all about showing support for American troops overseas.  The idea is that troops who feel supported have higher morale.  Higher morale translates into better performance.  Better performance increases the odds of survival.  The more we do on this side of the ocean to show our appreciation for our men and women in uniform, the more they have an advantage in the fight. 

To be honest, I was a little surprised when Gary’s email came through.  I’ve been with Butler for half a year now and nobody’s said a word about Red Shirt Fridays.  But, as you know, actions speak louder than words… and I really dig what Gary and the other guys’ actions have been saying.  I wonder if it’s a coincidence that his email came in the week before Memorial Day… but I know it won’t be when, this Friday, I start looking a little more like my co-workers in red.