Thursday, January 9, 2014

Honda Odyssey was Made for a Long Family Trip

The 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite arrives at a hotel in Arroyo Grande, Calif.,
 at 1:11 a.m. after an 857-mile drive on Christmas Day.
    Photo by Mary Lowry

By Mary Lowry

Minivans are largely the laughingstock of the automotive world, ridiculed for not being sporty or cool, put down for being mommymobiles. And I know moms who don't even want to be seen in them.

But after a long road trip that began on Christmas Day and put a car to a very grueling test, I'm here to praise the lowly minivan and give it the credit it deserves.

My niece Cate was getting married in Arroyo Grande, Calif., three days after Christmas. So I and my son and daughter-in-law who live near Portland decided to drive down there together, along with their two children, 9-year-old Lizzy and 4-year-old Ben. We wanted to get there as fast as we could, to have maximum time with all the rest of the family, so we decided to drive straight through. The distance between their Oregon home and the California hotel is 857 miles. It's a drive that would take about 14 hours, according to Google Maps.

Well. Three adults and two young children, all closely related, together in a car for 14 hours, could potentially be as stressful as Nik Wallenda crossing the Grand Canyon on a wire. But we would be in the 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite minivan, with comfortable seating for eight, three rows of seats, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. I knew the Odyssey would increase our chances of survival as a family, but I had no idea what a profound difference it would actually make.

We started loading up the Odyssey on Christmas morning. Lizzy had already staked out a corner seat in the third row and she set to work arranging her traveling necessities – an entourage of Uglydolls and stuffed animals, her iPad Mini, Rainbow Loom, fleece blanket, Pillow Pet, food snacks, water bottle, backpack, suitcase, and one of the two headsets for the car's DVD player – until she had effectively turned the third row area into her own apartment.

We positioned Ben in a second-row seat on the opposite side of the car, so the kids would be out of arm's reach of each other. We folded down the middle seatback to create a big center console with cupholders and bins Ben could use to stash his snacks, water bottle, Insignia Flex tablet, a few of the toy cars from his backpack full of them, and his own headset for the DVD player. On the floor, we put a tote bag full of children's classic DVDs I got from a Sno-Isle library, plus two new ones the kids got for Christmas: "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters University."

Even with the third row seat upright to create Lizzy's apartment, there was still lots of room in the Odyssey's rear cargo area because its bottom has a deep well. We were able to get three more carry-on-size suitcases in there, along with several duffel bags, assorted tote bags, a sleeping bag in a stuff sack, various extra shoes, heavy winter parkas, our snowstorm emergency equipment, and the equivalent of a survivalist's food pantry so we wouldn't have to stop for dinner (it would take too much time and most places would be closed for Christmas anyway).

And then off we went. And a miracle happened: The children were angels the entire time. A 4-year-old and a 9-year-old in a car for 14 hours with no whining, no crying, no fighting, no fidgeting, no screaming or yelling, no complaining, no kicking the seat in front of them, no freaking out, no driving the adults crazy. This is unprecedented in human history. And the return trip was very much the same. We owe it all to the 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite minivan, we really do, because the miracle wouldn't have happened without it.

Here are a few more of the many things we liked about the Odyssey:

  • Power sliding doors on both sides. In addition to being convenient for entry and exit, and loading and unloading, the doors were fun for the kids (especially Ben) to operate. So, we didn't have to plead or scold to get them into or out of the car. They were happy for any legitimate opportunity to open or close the doors. And, with Odyssey's low step-in height, the kids could get in and out easily.
  • Manually-operated mesh shades on all second- and third-row windows. Great for relief from too much sun on the face, and for more privacy, particularly at night when the DVD player is lighting up the interior. Manual operation allowed the kids to raise or lower their own shades to suit themselves.
  • A built-in vacuum cleaner system. A godsend for people like me who like a clean car and don't often have children on board. Located inside a side wall in the rear cargo area, it has a flexible hose long enough to reach all the way to the driver and front passenger footwells. It includes crevice and upholstery attachments. I used it several times during the trip to control the incredible mess kids can make of a car. Does anything they eat even make it into their mouths? Without the vacuum system, if we had left a door or window open too long, the Odyssey would have had seagulls circling above it.
  • The many plug-ins for electronic devices and convenient stowage spaces located throughout the vehicle. No space is wasted inside the 2014 Odyssey, and we used every inch of it during our trip. We three adults agreed enthusiastically that the people who designed Odyssey's interior really knew what they were doing, and that they had thought of everything.
  • Blind Spot Information System. One of the best recent advancements in automotive safety technology (and available on more new cars and trucks all the time), it was extremely useful during our trip, which included long stretches of driving in pitch dark or heavy fog, and sometimes both at once. Automatic notification of a vehicle in the blind spot on either side eliminates lane-change anxiety in those sketchy conditions.
  • Power and performance. Odyssey's 248-horsepower V6 engine did a remarkably good job under the most demanding circumstances: hauling us, all our stuff and the heavy car itself up steep grades at Grants Pass and Siskiyou Summit in southern Oregon, and the Mount Shasta area in California. The six-speed automatic transmission, also faced with a tough task during those circumstances, was downright saintly. When the road was level, the combo soared.
  • We averaged 23.8 mpg fuel economy on our trip, better than the Odyssey's EPA combined city/highway rating of 22 mpg. (Its city rating is 19 mpg; highway is 28 mpg.) About 90 percent of our driving was on freeways and highways, but with all the extra weight, the mountain passes, and the definitely un-mommyish driving habits of all three of us, 23.8 could be considered darn good.
2014 HONDA ODYSSEY TOURING ELITEBase price, including destination charge: $45,280
Price as driven: $45,280

Mary Lowry has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a board member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

Original article via Herald Net

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Valery Voyles - A Legacy for Excellence

Originally Printed in Southern Seasons Magazine.
From the high-fashion runway to automotive aristocracy, Valery Voyles has led a diverse and impressive life, encompassing her natural assets of brains and beauty. There are all kinds of glass ceilings in the world of business, but none has been more traditionally male dominated than the automobile industry, until now! Atlanta’s legendary family of the Ed Voyles Automotive Group is a stand-out in this city’s history as one of the most respected family-owned and operated companies. It is now led by Valery Voyles.
TIME Magazine sponsors the annual competition and award for the “TIME Quality Dealer of the Year,” where all 50 states select a nominee whose excellence and achievement represent them. This year, Valery Voyles is the proud recipient of the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association nomination for this national award. The winner will be announced at the National Automobile Dealers Association Convention, set for Feb. 8-11, 2013, in Orlando, Fla.
Valery grew up at her family’s dealership, helping out after school and working during the summers learning the business, under the watchful eye of her father, Ed Voyles. “I loved the smell of new cars in the showroom. I even loved the smell of the service department,” Valery said, recalling her earliest childhood memories of visiting her dad at the dealership. “I guess this business was in my blood from the beginning.”
Valery was a model from 1977 to 1981, at which point her daughter was born and she left the modeling industry for motherhood. “It was always my priority to be a full-time mom when my kids were small,” said Valery, who is happily married to Rob Jordan, mother to Jessica and Chase Singleton, and step-mother to Trey, Taylor and Sean Jordan.
In 1990, with her children both in school, Valery eagerly returned to the family business that was her legacy. When her father passed away in 2004, she took over as CEO/Chairman of Ed Voyles Automotive Group. Now, three generations of Valery’s family is working in the thriving family business, including her brothers, her children and her nephew.
With the sudden passing of her father, sudden decisions had to be made. Around that time, it was Valery whose life and circumstances were most flexible to assume leadership of the company. Her brothers, Bill and Ben, whole-heartedly supported Valery’s ascension to run the company. She had been so active in the operations of the company that the transition was logical.
With the support of her Senior Management Team and general managers, Valery currently oversees the daily operations of the six dealerships, including Ed Voyles Honda, Ed Voyles Hyundai, Ed Voyles Kia, Ed Voyles Acura, Ed Voyles Kia of Chamblee and Ed Voyles Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, which is the #1 Jeep Wrangler Dealer in the country!
Under her leadership, the dealerships have continued to prosper and earn numerous factory awards, including the Honda President’s Award, Acura Precision Team Award and Hyundai Board of Excellence award.
When asked what has made the company so successful for so long, Valery replied, “Any business without great employees cannot survive. Our employees are as important as our customers. We have over 500 employees and historically very little turnover. To me, this means I am responsible for the livelihoods of 500 families. It is a trust and a stewardship.”
The collapse of Chrysler and General Motors drove many American family-owned dealerships out of business. In the case of the Voyles, they were strong and diverse enough to survive these historic events and continue to thrive.
The largest number of dealerships are now publicly traded companies with 200 or more locations. Valery expands, “Perhaps our success has to do with lessons our father taught us, beginning with the importance of building relationships with our customers based on integrity, trust and excellence, to make them customers for life.”
The very fact that she’s female might well be another secret to her success. Today, 50% of all cars are purchased by women and 90% of all cars purchased are influenced by women!
In addition to the changing face of the car buyer, automotive technology and quality have improved dramatically in the past 10 to 15 years. “I am particularly enthusiastic about the new KIA plant in West Point, Georgia, which is producing the KIA Optima Sedan and the Sorento SUV,” Valery said. “This positive economic impact has created so many jobs in our state, both in the plant itself and for suppliers. Its success has led to plans for further expansion.”
Throughout its 65-year history, the Ed Voyles dealerships have always been heavily involved in their communities, from United Way and American Red Cross to March of Dimes and other organizations. Valery is proud to continue this staunch support.
As was her mother, Valery is a cancer survivor who helps numerous cancer charities. The Ed and Dora Voyles Breast Health Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital is a cancer treatment center named after her late parents.
Among Valery’s professional community involvement and affiliations: Chair Emeritus of the Acura National Dealer Advisory Board, Advisory Board Member for the Shepherd Center, Advisory Circle Member of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, Special Appointee of the Cobb Chamber Board of Directors, Board Member of The Cumberland Academy, Sponsor of the Teacher of the Year Program (partnered with Cobb County Chamber of Commerce), 2007 March of Dimes Annual Evening of Excellence Honoree, and United Way Campaign Annual Partner.
When asked about the best car she has ever driven, Valery replied: “Personally, I change cars every 5,000 miles! The fact is I love every car we sell. I currently have a minivan, a sports utility vehicle and a sedan.”

Southern Seasons Magazine is available on newsstands or by subscription.