The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) and several of its manufacturing members reportedly have taken issue with statements made in the national media, including those made by a vehicle manufacturer featured on MSNBC’s “The Bottom Line” on, which allegedly questions the safety and structural integrity of wheelchair accessible vehicle conversions. 

The MSNBC article spotlights a new vehicle called the MV-1, designed specifically for wheelchair users. Dave Schembri, retail president of the MV-1’s manufacturer, the Vehicle Production Group (VPG), Miami, Fla, told MSNBC that the process of conversion leaves the van’s major structural parts compromised, diminishing ride and handling, and providing users an uncertain level of crash protection. Harley Holt, Dale Kardos & Associates, Inc, Washington, DC, consultant on government regulatory issues for carmakers, reiterates Schembri’s statement in the MSNBC article, “Converted minivans just don’t work because they don’t have the separate bodies and chassis and it kills them when they are cut in half by converters,” Holt says. 

Dave Hubbard, NMEDA director/CEO, calls the claims “ill-informed and unsubstantiated” in a recent press release. “Our members adhere to strict guidelines designed to enhance and promote dependable mobility products,” Hubbard notes in the release. Nick Gutwein, president of The Braun Corporation, headquartered in Winamac, Ind, reinforces Hubbard’s statement, “The standards of manufacturing are really at the same level you’ll find at any of the big auto-makers,” Gutwein explains in the press release. “These are highly engineered conversions that meet all of the relevant Federal safety standards for crash testing. We test at the same facilities that the original manufacturers test in, and we meet or exceed those Federal standards for our customers,” Gutwein adds. 

Doug Eaton, CEO, Vantage Mobility International, Phoenix, Ariz, echoes Gutwein’s sentiment regarding safety and points to the reported “painstaking research and careful study” that goes into the design of the converted vehicles. 

A recent news item yielding from the West Palm Beach, Fla-based Palm Beach Post details the safety standards of the MV-1. Jim Jordan, overseeing market development for Schumacher MV-1 of Palm Beach, notes in the news story, that a wheelchair user can sit up front in the vehicle, which he says no other vehicle offers. Jordan adds that with its 1,200-pound capacity, the ramp, which also features an anti-slip surface, the vehicle provides great traction for safe entry and exit, exceeding Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the NMEDA press release, wheelchair van conversation offers the ability to drive the vehicle or ride as a passenger, the choice of side-entry or rear-entry ramp, and the ability to choose a vehicle that best fit the individual customer’s needs.

The release also notes that all new modified accessible vehicles manufactured and sold in the US and Canada are required to comply with Federal and Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The release also notes that these vehicles must pass extensive front, rear, and side crash tests to ensure that the Original Equipment Manufacturer safety certifications remain intact following modification.

Sheldon Walle, president of the Salina, Kan-based ElDorado National Kansas, Inc, emphasizes the importance for both members of the mobility industry and customers to ensure that they are provided factual information. “For over three decades we have assured customer safety and quality, and to suggest otherwise not only impugns our company but our industry as well,” Walle says.

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To view the MSNBC article click here or. to review the Palm Beach Post news story click here.

Source(s): NMEDA, The Braun Corporation, Vantage Mobility International, ElDorado National Kansas, Inc, MSNBC Bottom Line, Palm Beach Post