In the 608: Wisconsin’s oldest car dealership withstanding the test of time

Smart Motors Toyota
Smart Motors Toyota

MADISON, Wis. – One of the oldest car dealerships in the country, and the oldest car dealership of the state, is located right here in Madison.

Smart Motors has been around since 1908 with a fascinating history of how this family business has withstood the test of time.

The first Model T in history rolled out of the factory in 1908. During the same year, O.D. Smart began selling automobiles – which were meticulously made by hand – to local customers out of his father’s livery stable in Waukesha.

When Smart Motors began at the turn of the century, it was one of only a few local car dealerships in the Madison area. An Apperson Jack Rabbit was the first car sold by O.D. Smart, the original owner of Smart Motors, in 1908. The Apperson sold for $5,000 at that time which translates to $122,100 in today’s dollars.

The 1950s took Smart Motors past the half-century mark as cars became comfortable and increasingly convenient. Air conditioning, seat belts, and the creation of the interstate highway system made cars safer and easier to drive.

Then in December 2007, Smart Motors moved into their brand new 100,000 sq. ft. building. The facility is the largest Toyota facility in the Chicago Region and one of the largest in the country.

“We have a hard and fast rule around here: ‘The best idea wins. Period,’ says J.R. Smart. “There’s a lack of corporate ego and an environment that encourages innovation. Plus, our attitude about customers is that without them we have no business. So taking care of people has always been part of our corporate culture.”

Smart Motors has also partnered with a few local and national civic and charitable organizations in giving back to the community over the years.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Smart Motors, click here.