I-5 Cars Owner, Heidi Pehl, Invests in Customers, Employees and the Community



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Throughout the years, I-5 Cars has sponsored various Lewis and Thurston County-area sports teams — something Heidi and her family are passionate about. Photo courtesy: Silver Agency.

When I-5 Cars owners Heidi Pehl and her husband were invited to purchase Uhlmann Motors in Chehalis, Heidi thought she was making a real estate investment. It would not be long before she realized she was investing in much more.

Before buying I-5 Cars in 2002, Heidi served as the executive director for the Port of Chehalis — a job she enjoyed for 11 years. Heidi loved her job and had no intention of leaving. However, within two short weeks of purchasing I-5 Cars, Heidi realized that owning an automotive group was a full-time job.

“We thought we were buying a real estate investment,” Heidi explained. “But that’s not the car industry.” Heidi left her job at the port to manage the dealership. “The first year is kind of a blur,” Heidi recalled. “It was an intense period of learning.”

As Heidi learned on the job, she worked hard to turn the automotive group — which, at the time, consisted of Uhlmann Motors, Uhlmann RV and a Toyota franchise — into a well-oiled machine. “It was a lot of figuring out who went where and where I fit best,” Heidi said. “I also had to get Toyota and Ford to approve me as a dealer.”

Despite the challenges that faced Heidi in the first few years, she was able to navigate her way through the process, demonstrate a strong understanding of the automotive field and establish herself as a successful female business owner in a male-dominated industry.

Investing in her customers, employees

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Giving back to customers, employees and the community has always been a priority of Heidi’s — especially during the holidays. Photo courtesy: Silver Agency.

Since acquiring I-5 Cars in 2002, the automotive group has grown to include additional dealerships in both Lewis and Thurston Counties, including a state-of-the-art Volkswagen dealership in Olympia, which will celebrate its grand opening in late November.

Heidi attributes this growth and success to two factors: her customers and her staff.

“The growth is primarily due to our customers,” Heidi said. “We continue to grow so that we can better serve our existing market and customer base.”

But it is Heidi’s friendly, knowledgeable staff that keep customers coming back, time and time again.

“Throughout the organization, I am most proud of the people who work with me,” Heidi said.  And I-5 Cars employees feel the same way about her.

Many of Heidi’s employees have been with her since the beginning — growing with the company and moving up the chain of command. There is not a high turnover rate at I-5 Cars, but that is because Heidi works hard to create a work environment her employees love.

“I want to pay people above average and give people good jobs that they like,” Heidi said. “You spend a lot of time at work, and life is too short to hate your day job.”

Investing in the community

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Test drive a new Volkswagen during the week of Thanksgiving and Volkswagen of Olympia will donate $25 to Lacey-based non-profit Homeless Backpacks. Photo courtesy: Volkswagen of Olympia.

For Heidi, however, owning a business is about more than making a sale or signing a paycheck — it is about the community.

Since 2002, Heidi has always found ways to support her community. Whether through sponsoring a local sports team or supporting a non-profit, giving back is at the heart of Heidi’s operation.

Now with three dealerships in Olympia, Heidi wanted to further expand I-5 Cars’ generous reach to support a cause in Thurston County. Throughout Thanksgiving week, I-5 Cars is donating $25 to Homeless Backpacks for every new Volkswagen that is taken for a test drive.

“This is a program that really caught our attention,” said Heidi. “Many of these kids don’t really have a home or home life, and they don’t have supplies for school. Supporting this organization is a great way to impact kids who need help in Thurston County.”

In addition to the week-long fundraising event, Volkswagen of Olympia is celebrating Black Friday (November 27) with free oil changes all day long. This is just another example of how Heidi and her team take care of their customers, the community and each other.

You can learn more about Heidi Pehl and I-5 Cars on its website. To learn more about Volkswagen of Olympia and its upcoming events, visit Volkswagen of Olympia online or follow the dealership on Facebook.


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