My love affair with the stick shift…

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I was six.  The shifter in question lived in a late 60s VW Beetle that my Dad had purchased from one of my brothers whose eye had wandered to a new mechanical love. The faded green paint, white interior, rusted floorboard and that knob on the end of a stick…I loved that car.

Being the only girl and the youngest in a family of five kids allowed me certain privileges with Dad. We ventured the streets and byways of our hometown in northern Illinois in that car and Dad taught me to shift.  He would clutch and I would shift left-handed.  I can drive in Europe thanks to him!  Timing my tiny hand with his size 11 shoe became a fun game that we “didn’t tell Mom” about.  In a house full of men, there were a lot of things we (namely me) “didn’t tell Mom” about when it came to riding in cars and on motorcycles.  That car still brings fond memories to mind as I write this blog post.  It was my first true car experience as the driver, or as close as a six-year-old could get…power like that at such a young age corrupts.

78′ Rabbit was the next VW product to drift across the driveway.  I was sixteen and wanting some independence.  Our next door neighbor was a VW mechanic so in my Dad’s eyes that sealed  the deal on another VW in our house.  Spending a whopping $800 on that orange beauty was a bargain…I paid half, Dad the other.  Funny, all that shifting left-handed did me no good as I rode shotgun on the way home from purchasing the gem. Sitting in the driver’s seat was a bit different from a Sunday drive with Dad at the helm.  A few driving lessons later on the National St. hill and he was done.  My tutelage was left to a friend who had mastered her own stick shift via the Mazda wagon of about the same year as my VW.  Manuals have peppered the landscape of my life and I currently enjoy my Subaru Legacy very much while I do some downshifting and passing on the B and C roads of life.

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While I talk of the love of a manual transmission, it makes me wonder where we will go…people like me who love to drive…when cars are more autonomous.  I’m not alone in my despair, the reality of it is here.  More and more features on today’s new rides have minds of their own.  Many are for safety, others for convenience.  Today’s cars will be on the road at least 15-20 years.  I’ve got awhile before we go completely autonomous.

One thing I do know…as long as this exists (photo below)…there will be drivers of manual transmissions. Maybe I should get into racing…looks like fun to me!

I bet Dad would have enjoyed it too!

Keep shifting my friend…

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Mine, Yours, OURS. Autos.

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(Photo by Jules Stayton)

Daybreak. A new beginning. Marking time. Opportunity for change. Consistency. Reliability. Beauty. One-of-a-kind.

I could be using the words and phrases above to describe the photo you see or a baby being born or an adventure started.   Choosing to use those nuggets of wisdom to describe the contribution of both men and women to the auto industry may seem a stretch, but bear with me…it’s a blog. Read on.

Marked by the advent of International Women’s Day this week my thoughts have wandered through the maze of opinions and stances.  As a human being first and a woman second, I believe that everyone has value no matter what their sex. All have something to contribute to making this world a better place and the way we do that is to show up and start.  Just like the dawn, start each day with purpose and drive.

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What, may you say, does any of this have to do with the auto industry?  Well, here at JulesOnWheelz, my focus has been reflecting upon what I found most interesting about the 2017 Chicago Auto Show that finished up one short month ago.  I would be remiss to ignore the panel that met during media day, February 8, 2017, at McCormick Place as it truly inspired me.

#WhatdrivesherCAS was a forum for both men and women sponsored by Women in Automotive and She Buys Cars to hear testimonial from some of the women who have chosen the auto industry as their livelihood. Speaking were Candice Crane (@CraneAutoHR) VP of Dealer Solutions for Hireology.com, Bridget Brennan (@BridgetBrennan) Female Factor Founder and CEO and author of “Why She Buys”, Kathy Gilbert CDKGlobal Director of Sales and Business Development and Jody Hall (@JodyNHall) VP of the Automotive Market for Steel Market Development Institute (@SMDI Automotive).

Facebook Live’s broadcast of the panel was filled with testimonial about how each member entered the auto industry. Outlining their struggles and successes could have come from anyone, male or female, but with Women in Automotive’s slogan being “Accelerating the role of women in the auto industry” and She Buys Cars’ “Life happens in cars. Enjoy the ride” the stage was set.

Seemingly mesmerized as I listened to the broadcast that evening, I was so engaged with the content that I found myself commenting as the blue “thumbs up” peppered the screen not realizing it was taped from earlier in the day as lunch was served. Unabashed, I continued my gawking until tape’s end. Finding myself with renewed vigor of how I could make my way in the automotive industry, the world was my oyster.  JulesOnWheelz was born.

If those panel members were looking for an inspirational talk to motivate women to move into the auto industry, I am their success story.  Passion, drive, dedication, and love power me forward in this journey.  After all, we need to feel the sand between our toes right?

Keep that thrill alive…let the dawn inspire YOU to make a fresh start each day and make your dreams come true.  There are people willing to counsel and guide if you only give them a chance to see the passion you have and the dedication you’re willing to give.

Thanks for riding along…

Jules

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Photo by Jules Stayton

 

 

 

Braun Ability + Chrysler = Independence

Most of us take the notion of independence for granted.  Going for a walk, running to the store, playing with our children, driving to work.  For many, independence is a daily struggle but @Braun Ability and @Chrysler have been partners for years and have associated once again in a collaboration to assist individuals with disabilities to be exactly that…independent… through the advent of the highly touted and award laden, Chrysler Pacifica.

Ralph Braun founded  Braun Ability out of necessity.  He himself struggled with independence due to spinal muscular atrophy and was unable to walk by the time he was 15 years old.  His station driving his invention, in the 1960s he invented the tri-wheeler (Save-A-Step Manufacturing Co.), wheelchair lift (Lift Away) and steering controls.  The vessel for these became a postal Jeep that he converted for his needed purpose and there you have it…independence achieved.  Braun Ability was born.

Evolving over the years in to the brand we know today, the release of the Chrysler Pacifica and it’s reveal at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2017 with partner Canine Companions for Independence made for a Braun Ability success story like no other and would have made Ralph very proud.

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Brand Manager for Braun Ability, Megan Wegner, echoed this sentiment in referring to Ralph as the “father of the mobility movement”.  His desire to serve the “under served population” of those with disabilities drove him.  Dynamics that focus on user guided design and development have made Braun Ability the “most trusted” brand. A longtime partner with Chrysler the modifications pursued in order to keep that title are quite involved as this video imparts. Click here:  Braun Ability Pacifica Conversion Video

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Wegner joined in my excitement about the role Braun Ability and every other auto manufacturer might play in the trend of #autonomous vehicles.  Fully automated vehicles would make independence more real at every turn for many consumers.  The possibilities are endless and features like blind spot detection, brake assist, 360 degree cameras, and other semi-autonomous elements dot the landscape already, like pins on a world traveler’s map, in today’s rides.

One last point to ponder is the healthy used market for wheelchair accessible transport.  Previous conversions and even Braun’s most recent Ford Explorer version make affordability reality.  Certified pre-owned status crosses over to these vehicles just like the mainstream market with a five year warranty.  Wegner emphasized that in the wheelchair accessible market especially, “peace of mind” and “reliability” are critical.  Braun’s website is a starting point for access to one of the over 200 certified dealers in the United States who can help with a search for the right vehicle  and financing for families who want to embark on the independence journey.

Braun Ability is headquartered in Winamac, IN .

Photos courtesy of Braun Ability.

 

 

 

 

10 days in February

I must confess…I love cars.  Old, new, running, rusted in a field, or withering away in a barn in Kentucky, I’m drawn.  Maybe it comes from growing up in the Chicago area and attending the Chicago Auto Show so many times.  Maybe it’s the four brothers who provided a showroom of jalopies and treasures on the mile long driveway I shoveled for so many years. Maybe the favorite teacher who loved and taught cars to the willing ears of his students…and I was SO willing to listen! I’m hooked.

Frozen fingers and toes, snow, salt, wind…nothing will keep a car buff from the show right?  Grey days and frigid temps are the norm most years and we faithful drudge through it all to attend one of the most elaborate displays of automobile perfection known to man…ok, maybe not known to man, but the largest in North America.  People actually come to the Chicago Auto Show to scope out their next ride!  Those practical Midwesterners, gotta love em’.

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Blazing a new trail this year at #CAS17 was a new form of “attendance”, Facebook Live. Sitting in your pajamas in Boca just got exciting…even the media previews were hosted.

Junkies like me were able to tune in live when possible and view archived video at our leisure on everything from women in the auto industry #WhatDrivesHerCAS, keynote addresses like Midwest Automotive Media Association’s @mamaonline, to interviews from some of our longtime favorites in @MotorWeek‘s John Davis @MWJohnDavis.

Topics ranged from #AutonomousVehicles, teen drivers @rozvaronABC7, modifications & assistance dogs @BraunAbility @ccicanine, and of course the new model reveals for so many automakers that harness the Chicago Auto Show as the beauty pageant for their creation’s debut.

Blogging about “Hot topics, new trends and everything about autos…” is the goal, tune in for my next installment of  things I enjoyed about #CAS17 and until then, stay warm, it is February even though Mother Nature may forget every once in awhile.

Fondly,

Jules