For the second time in the past two and a half years, ceremonies held at the AM General plant in Mishawaka marked the launch of the MV-1.
The MV-1 is a vehicle designed specifically for wheelchair bound individuals. In 2011, AM General played a supporting role in the project (it was contracted to manufacture the vehicle). Today, AM General is running the show.
“Just delighted to re-launch this product in a short period of time, create new jobs, bring people back to work, and service this needy community that has been underserved for such a long period of time,” said AM General CEO Charlie Hall. “When the vehicle was originally introduced it was under the leadership of a different company (Vehicle Production Group), and frankly, they just didn’t have the infrastructure and the resources to make it successful.”
A lot of the MV-1’s being made today on the plant floor in Mishawaka stand half a chance to ‘make it’ to New York, New York.
The market in the Big Apple has never been so ripe for handicapped accessible vehicles.
“Actually, it’s the best timing in the world because we made a deal with outgoing Mayor Bloomberg who had opposed accessible taxis for 12 years,” said James Weisman, an attorney for The United Spinal Association. “To make 50 percent of the Yellow Cabs in Manhattan accessible, which will be 7,500 taxis in a very short amount of time.”
Weisman hopes that New York serves as a model for the rest of the nation and he’s glad to see the re-launch of the MV-1. “It changes everything. There’s a new class of person with disability in America. Since 1975, kids have been mainstreamed with disabilities into public schools, people are working, they’re making a living, they have discretionary income to spend. They’re going to buy this car.”
The MV-1 is the only vehicle specifically designed and built to cater to wheelchair bound individuals, as opposed to cars and vans that are converted as an afterthought.
“I’ve been using a wheelchair since I was a little baby, I got injured when I was 10 months old and, so I’ve been in this game for a long time and had to look for accessible transportation and the MV-1 is like nothing else, there’s nothing else out there that offers the same kind of safety and durability and again, just the thoughtful design of the vehicle,” said Kristina Rhoades with Mobility Ventures, LLC.
The MV-1 has a factory installed motorized wheelchair ramp and is spacious enough inside to accommodate a powered wheelchair or a scooter.
“50 million disabled folks in this country and you know, with 50 million wheelchair users this market was probably ripe 10 years ago for this technology and this vehicle,” said U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, (R) Indiana’s Second District.
The AM General plant in Mishawaka now has nearly 200 people working on the MV-1 production line. The plant is producing about 60 vehicles per week with hopes to double that rate by the end of this year
About 2,200 MV-1 vehicles made it to market under the control of the Vehicle Production Group. VPG folded in May of 2013 because of financial pressures.