January 2024


Driven | Learner | Kind | Team Player
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April 2024


Driven | Learner | Kind | Team Player


Jeff Niesen
President | Van Horn Automotive Group

Happy April Everyone!

I hope this message finds you all in high spirits and ready to tackle the remainder of April with a vengeance. Within the first quarter newsletter you will find our state of the company video. In that video we talk about our first quarter results and many of the great things we have going on within the auto group. Rather than just typing out all of those same results again, I thought I would just write about the core value DRIVEN and what it means to me. If you watch the State of the Company video Adam will give you his perspective on the same core value. Adam makes some great observations about what DRIVEN means to him in the video, but it never hurts to have two perspectives on something.

To me, being DRIVEN isn't just about putting in the hours or checking off items on a to-do list. It's about having a hunger deep down in your belly, a hunger that says, "I refuse to settle for being average". It's about chasing your dreams with the ferocity of a puppy chasing a squirrel for the first time!

When we talk about building a superior culture to other workplaces we’re talking about building teams of people that live our four core values: DRIVEN, TEAM PLAYER, LEARNER and KIND. If your team culture is all of these things, but lacks the DRIVEN value what does that suggest? It suggests it might be a great group of people to work with every day who treat each other well and are always trying to learn new things, but that team just might not be that concerned with the results.

Let’s face it, this auto group is a large business and if you want to win in business you have to put up consistent results and always strive for ways to get better at your craft. As owners, that is how we’re going to maximize the value of our ESOP. That is why we need to continue to build teams of people that are DRIVEN to produce above average results. Yes, new and used vehicle sales get the biggest spotlight, but the same goes for those advisors that sell in our service lanes, our parts and body shop departments and our commercial sales department, etc.

How do we, as leaders, look for that inner DRIVE? Of course it starts when we’re putting the teams together. What impression are we giving potential job candidates of the role they’re interviewing for? Are we letting them know that we’re building a culture of a fantastic place to work, with teams that treat our co-workers and customers very well, but also are very competitive and always trying to be the best at what we do?

Are we asking the right questions during the interview process to really find out if the potential candidate has the DRIVE to win? If not, maybe try some of these simple conversation starters: share a story about a difficult client you dealt with and how you successfully turned it around; what do you think sets apart top performing (insert your department here) from just average (insert your department here too); what’s the most ambitious goal you ever set for yourself personally and professionally; how do you stay motivated in times of adversity? There needs to be a conversation around this and you need to be convinced that this person doesn’t settle for being average.

With all of that being said, being driven doesn't mean you have to be serious all the time. In fact, I'd argue that the most DRIVEN people are the ones who know how to laugh in the face of adversity and who can find the humor in even the most challenging situations. Setting records isn’t fun if you’re miserable doing it. :)

Let’s have some fun, stay DRIVEN and find a way to win in April!

Your biggest fan,
Jeff Niesen
President & CEO


Remembering Kathryn Joann Van Horn Wieland

Plymouth, WI, February 16, 2024 – The Van Horn Automotive Group, extended family and local community lost a great leader and influencer this week. Joann (Jo) Wieland passed peacefully late Tuesday, February 13 at Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice in Sheboygan Falls.

Joann was the daughter of the late Joe and Kay Van Horn, and the eldest of the 6 Van Horn siblings. Joann was a vibrant leader and bellwether in the community, with a passion for the outdoors, travel and family gatherings. Through her career, she held positions in both the Van Horn organization and community non-profit organizations, and had a dedication to elevating women in leadership.

She graduated high school from St. Mary’s Springs in 1971, and would further her formal education at St. Mary’s of the Woods with a degree in Humanities with an emphasis in Literature and Philosophy and a minor in Organizational Leadership and Quality. If that wasn’t enough, she went on to receive a Masters of Organizational Leadership from Marian University in Fond du Lac.

Like many of the Van Horn siblings, she went to work for her father (Joe) at the Chevy dealership in Plymouth. She married her husband Dan in 1979, and in the years to follow, fulfilled her greatest role as mother; giving birth to Derek and Brian. In 1989, Joann and Dan became co-owners of the Oldsmobile dealership in Sheboygan with Joe Van Horn; now the site of Van Horn Motors of Sheboygan. The Hyundai franchise was added to the store a few years later, which paved the way for Hyundai of Fond du Lac. Joann’s last role with Van Horn was Manager of the Human Resources department, when the auto group was formed in 2014.

Her passion for serving the community extended beyond the car business. While working for United Way, she got involved at the ground level of what would become Generations Intergenerational Center in Plymouth. Generations sponsors fitness, educational, recreational and social programs to meet the interest and needs of all ages. She was also the co-founder and owner of Here We Grow day care center in Plymouth, which eventually added a location in Sheboygan. Always humble and grateful, she remarked that she didn’t make a lot of money but was enriched by the work she did, and took great pride in helping people become the best versions of themselves. Over time, Joann won several awards, including Business Woman of the Year and a Lifetime Achievement Award from St. Mary’s of the Woods.

Joann was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2010; a rare form of blood cancer that develops in plasma cells in the bone marrow. She bravely lived with this condition for several years, and far outlasted the normal life expectancy of this form of cancer.

Cars For $15K Initiative

In a combined effort Motors of Sheboygan and Budget Auto of Plymouth have launched a marketing campaign, Cars For $15K, to entice customers searching for an affordable reliable vehicle through Van Horn Automotive Group. These tactics include the following:

  • A new website linking off to their vehicle inventory
  • Social Media Campaigns 
  • Vehicle video walk arounds from Sales Consultants


Visit Site: CarsFor15K.com
Auto Technician Recruitment Campaign

On March 1, we kicked off one of the largest Human Resource and Marketing Campaigns of the year. The Auto Tech Recruitment & Retention Campaign is designed to retain our top Auto Tech talent in the organization, train up our younger talent, and recruit new talent.

The goal is to retain our existing auto tech employee numbers, while increasing our A and B-level techs by 25.

Human Resource Efforts

  • New interview process, to include Director, COO and President
  • Extend benefit offerings
  • Auto Tech recognition events

Marketing Efforts

A comprehensive Marketing campaign kicked off March 1, and will run through September 30. It will include the following tactics:

  • State-wide broadcast and streaming radio through iHeart Media
  • Podcast audio commercials
  • Display ads and geo-fencing
  • OTT Video and YouTube ads
  • Paid social media
  • Recruiting Events

We Need Your Help!

Employees can earn cash through a referral bonus, by recruiting a technician. (Reach out to Human Resources with any questions)

  • $3,000 for A&B Techs
  • $1,000 for C Techs
  • $500 for anyone else

At the heart of the campaign is a work hard, play hard message. We’re looking for people not just looking for a JOB, but rather a CAREER; and we’re confident that our organization can provide opportunities to excel as an auto technician and beyond. For those of you with auto tech staffing issues; help is on the way. We’re very optimistic about this campaign. We will need everyone’s commitment to help with recruitment, and maintain a great culture in our shops to attract and retain talent.

Gala Season Recap

Van Horn is actively involved in various city chamber galas and community-based initiatives that promote community engagement, social responsibility, and support for local businesses. They are committed to giving back to the communities they serve and have already participated in events hosted by the Sheboygan County's Chamber, Elkhart Lake Chamber, and Portage County's Business Council. Through their participation, they have demonstrated a strong commitment to making a positive impact and supporting local communities.

BBBS: Bowl For Kid's Sake
Our experience at the "Bowling for Kids' Sake" event hosted by Big Brothers Big Sisters WI Shoreline was fantastic, to say the least. The atmosphere was lively, and everyone was excited to be there. It was inspiring to see how individuals and companies came together to support a worthy cause, and we felt proud to be a part of it.
Bowl for Kids' Sake is a signature fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and it's easy to see why! The event is designed to make a significant impact on the local community while having fun. To participate, fundraising teams gather donations from family, friends, and colleagues, and the money raised goes directly to the organization. This event is critical to the success of their program, as it provides the funds necessary to support the children they serve.
We loved the excitement of the bowling party, and it was fun to celebrate our success with our team. 

Thank you all who donated and participated towards a great cause:

  • Business Development Center
  • Van Horn CDJR of Manitowoc
  • Marketing
Van Horn Awards Brenna Prieto With Dale Carnegie Scholarship

Van Horn Automotive Group recently awarded Brenna Prieto with a scholarship to attend the Dale Carnegie Women’s Leadership Academy. Brenna, who works as a Training and Development Specialist in the Service Business Development Center, was selected by the She Owns It committee from a pool of applicants as the winner. She has been with the company for four years, starting as an entry-level employee and working her way up.

“She Owns It” is a women’s business resource group that operates within the Van Horn Automotive Group. The group aims to connect women who work in various departments within the company and provide them with a platform to share their experiences, brainstorm new initiatives, and foster professional connections. This initiative is in line with Van Horn’s core values of being a lifelong learner and continuously growing and developing oneself.

The Dale Carnegie Women’s Leadership Academy empowers women leaders by honing their innovation, problem-solving, and collaboration skills across different fields, fostering organizational success. Participants graduate as confident leaders with strong communication, relationship-building abilities, and the capacity to drive business outcomes.

When asked about her goals for the Dale Carnegie program, Brenna expressed, “I want to focus on growing my leadership skills, so that I can find my leadership style and hone in on that and apply it.” She continued by explaining, “If you are going to build yourself up, you should bring people with you. I hope to do that. I care about everyone I work with and on my team.”

Van Horn is a company that is deeply committed to helping its employees achieve a healthy work-life balance. They recognize the importance of setting clear career goals and providing vital support and mentorship to help their employees reach their full potential. Their dedication to supporting their female employees is unwavering, and they understand the distinct challenges that women face in male-dominated industries. Van Horn is determined to help their female employees overcome these challenges and become successful leaders in their fields.

“We ultimately selected Brenna because of the work she is already doing to advance professional women in the Automotive Industry and the exemplary example she sets for others,” stated Jeri Johnson, the Executive Director of Human Resources. “She consistently demonstrates the positive impact professional women can have in our industry. We want to ensure she has all the tools and skills at her disposal to continue having a positive influence on our entire organization.”

Brenna’s journey is a testament to the importance of supporting and empowering women in the workplace. Initiatives like She Owns It play a crucial role in creating a diverse, inclusive, and supportive environment where women can thrive, lead, and excel in their careers. By celebrating her achievements, Van Horn reaffirms its commitment to promoting gender equality, mentorship, and professional development opportunities for all individuals.

As Van Horn continues to champion diversity, inclusion, and leadership in the automotive industry, it invites everyone to join them in supporting and uplifting women in their professional endeavors. Together, we can all create a brighter, more equitable future where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and make a positive impact. If you are interested in joining the Van Horn Automotive Group, you can see available career options at VanHornCareers.com.


Preventative Care for 
Children and Adults
Health Tip: Mindful Eating
Baby Announcements
I Own It Winners
2023 Volunteers
CONGRATULATIONS! KIA's Max Umbs (Selected to KIA's Skills National Cup)
  • Who Owned It?

    If you catch one of your fellow employees going the extra mile for the dealership, your team or a customer; please nominate them to be recognized at the next Town Hall meeting. Winners will receive a trophy for their work station for the month, and they will be entered into larger prize drawings throughout the year.
    Nominate a Coworker
  • Share Your Celebrations!

    We are always looking for new exciting content for our quarterly newsletters. Did you get married, have a new grandchild, a graduation in your family, a wedding anniversary, etc? We want to share your celebrations! To have your celebration featured in the newsletter send an email to Paige in HR at:

    [email protected]

  • Revamp of our Apparel Store!

    When you visit, you'll immediately notice our expanded selection of items and the addition of four distinct logos to choose from: Van Horn, WDS, Cloudlot, and WCC. Notably, our volunteer blue Van Horn shirt is now conveniently available at your nearest parts department, and we're pleased to offer it at a new price of $5. So, if you're in the market for some fresh apparel, be sure to check it out!
    Order Apparel


Looking to participate in a Van Horn Event 
or even use your volunteer hours?
View All Events
January 2024


Driven | Learner | Kind | Team Player


1 Year
Evan Gantner
Jacob Rubsam
Brayden Underwood
Mitchell Kietzmann
Sylvain Ly
Javonte McMiller
Aaron Salata
Vanhsay Ratsimeuang
Nicholas Gordon
Roy Edwards
Kyle Swangstu
David Slatinshek
2 Years
Anna Hallett
David Eagle
Chris Meyer
Ray Salzwedel
Elijah Tuesburg
James Barber
Kevin Barnes
Nicholas Randall
Richard King
Nathan Stierna
Jody Leischner
3 Years
Jaydon Wolfgram
Dallas Gulseth
Thomas Junk
Gwen Mayers
Jessica Michaels
James Fromm
Amanda Lucksted
5 Years
Kate Woleben
Wilfred Vande Slunt
Robert Gates
6 Years
Kristen Storm
Julie Roberts
John Heal
Barb Pahl
Ed Pahl
7 Years
Ryan Thiel
8 Years
Dusty Medved
Anthony Mendez
10 Years
Mark Schnell
16 Years
Kyle Fale
45 Years
Brian Wimmer
1 Year
Emily Schwanke
Jacob Armentrout
Waycee Thomas
Donta Jones
Kendra Manlick
Bailey Hetzel
Kristen Leschke
Travis Ricklefs
Reed Ward
Justin Dassow
Peyton Bergquist
Allan Reseburg
2 Years
Gary Schaefer
Ethan Kober
Greg Moser
Ken Newbury
Bryan Johnson
Allen May
Zach Olson
Tim Donahue
Ethan Detweiler
Trevor Walt
Terry Wehse
Shawn Kunkle
3 Years
Steve Kujala
Steve DoBas
Matt Stone
4 Years
Jeremy Watts
Jason Springer
5 Years
Daniel Ronayne
Michael Augustine
Tim Darr
6 Years
Bruce Roberts
Cody Suddeth
7 Years
Aaron May
11 Years
Sarah Dinkelman
Scott Heinecke
13 Years
Jesse Jaehnig
Lisa Mickelson
22 Years
Matt Klemme
24 Years
Bruce Vreeke
37 Years
Dan Welnetz
1 Year
Bryce Bates
Jacob Ortega
David Yanke
Dakota Phippen-Wollam
John Piontkowski
Myles Roitt-Edler
Levi Haskins
Miguel Braun
Fred Haack
Richard Tofte
Anthony Alexander
Bryce Remy
2 Years
Jennifer Messenger
David Hilbelink
Yusef Qandeel
Jane Weinfurter
Cole Nease
Alyssa Glenetske
Ariana Hendricks
Tyler Jensen
Jeri Johnson
3 Years
Kou Vue
Sheila Barger
Peter Hilbelink
Darren Leher
4 Years
Chris Preder
Brenna Prieto
Rhea Williams
Zach Hasenstein
Shannon Laehn
5 Years
Dustin Helms
Don Dillman
Jake Beringer
Jim Grossen
6 Years
Bradley Lueck
Bradley DiPalma
Zach Walsh
8 Years
Mike Vagnini
Jared Henning
Christopher Craemer
9 Years
Brian Tatela
10 Years
Tom Malone
Jean Orozco
Mark Sloan
12 Years
Fred Fabris
Lindy Guetzke
17 Years
Amy Horness
19 Years
Jarred Birschbach
Christopher Otters
21 Years
Marsha Schwaller
Adam Gaedke
23 Years
Dan Schreiner
24 Years
Colleen Butler
26 Years
Dale Klein


Justin Simmons
Platform Director
Fun fact about you
Although I have zero musical ability, I do own a guitar that I taught myself how to play in high school.
What is your favorite hobby/interest outside of work?
Traveling to different places with my wife.
If you had to pick one age to be permanently, which age would you choose?
26 – you are still young, healthy, and have a lot of fun, but also know you need to be an adult.
What is your favorite holiday?
4th of July
What movie could you quote by heart?
Old School
What is on the top of your bucket list?
Oktoberfest in Munich
Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
A shower
If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?
If you could meet one person, living or dead, real or fictional, and have a conversation with them, who would you meet and what would you talk about?
Aaron Rodgers – we would talk about life
If you could only eat one dish for every meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Deep dish pizza

Q & A

What are the top 3 items on your bucket list?
Rachel Pledl
Sales BDC
1. Go to Iceland and experience the Northern Lights

2. Purchase a small camper and travel the country to see the National Parks with my family

3. Scuba Dive
Jerry Sulaiman
Budget Auto
1. Go skydiving

2. Travel to Italy

3. Go to see an SEC football game (preferably Alabama at Tennessee (in Knoxville)
Jason Hendrikse
Plymouth Dodge
1. Go to a 2026 World Cup Game

2. Pull the camper to Glacier National Park

3. Go on an African Safari
Ariana Hendricks
1. Go deep sea fishing and successfully catch a Blue Marline (and get a picture of course!)

2. Complete the North American Waterfowl Grand Slam (hunt and harvest 43 different species of waterfowl throughout the states)

3. Go on a deer hunting trip to Kansas and harvest a buck that scores 200+ inches


Jeri Johnson
Duke and Leo
John Heal
Josh Lienau
Archie and Chopper
Dallas Gulseth
Patti Ellingson
Ollie, Prevy, and Tibby
Steven Kujala
Empower People. Amaze Customers.
Copyright © 2024 | Van Horn Automotive Group
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