A new vehicle from an emerging brand made its auto-show debut at the 2012 New York Auto Show.
The VPG MV-1 (which stands for First Mobility Vehicle) is designed and built specifically for wheelchair users. Unlike competitors, which sell minivans that need conversion for wheelchair access by aftermarket upfitters, the MV-1 was developed from the start as a vehicle specifically tailored for those who rely on wheelchairs and other assistive devices. The company says the vehicle is the only one that meets or exceeds all guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As such, the 4-door MV-1 has a ramp that deploys on the passenger side from underneath the floor. A manual-operation ramp is standard. An electrically deploying and telescopic ramp is optional. The ramp is rated to support up to 1,200 pounds. The side door is 56 inches high and 36 inches wide. The interior is 5 feet tall from floor-to-ceiling. Maximum passenger capacity is 6, including two wheelchairs, plus the driver.
The MV-1 uses a truck-like body-on-frame design. Roush, the company known for modifying Ford’s Mustang sporty/performance car and converting Ford pickup trucks to run on compressed natural gas (CNG), is responsible for the chassis design. Under the hood of the MV-1 resides the drivetrain formerly used in the Ford Crown Victoria: a 4.6-liter V8 connected to a 4-speed automatic transmission. The MV-1 is rear-wheel drive. Additionally, the MV-1 uses gasoline and can be equipped to run on CNG.
The VPG MV-1 comes in two trim levels. The base Standard vehicle includes the manually-deployable ramp, power windows/locks/mirrors, a commercial-grade power driver seat, four 12-volt power outlets, rear heat and air conditioning vents, a wheelchair-restraint track system, rear self-leveling air suspension, and cloth upholstery. Also, the floor and ramp are covered with an anti-slip material. The range-topping Deluxe model includes the telescopic power ramp, rear window wiper, cruise control, CD player, front-seat center console with 12-volt power outlet, and a cargo-area floor-trim package. Options include a rear-facing “jump” seat behind the driver and CNG capability.
VPG (which stands for Vehicle Production Group LLC) says the MV-1 meets Federal safety and crash standards. Safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, and a driver-side airbag.
The VPG MV-1 is built by AM General in the plant that formerly produced Hummer H2 premium-midsize SUVs. The MV-1 is currently on sale to the public and fleets. It starts around $40,000.
Though wheelchair-accessible vehicles are not our area of expertise, this vehicle looks to be a game changer. Designed with the needs of mobility-challenged individuals in mind, this vehicle has several thoughtful features, including a tall build with cavernous interior space for the maneuvering of wheelchairs, a power-deployable ramp that can be set to extend to different lengths for all loading situations, and a standard-equipped commercial-grade driver seat developed for livery drivers who spend hours in their vehicles. The company says their vehicle is superior to minivans converted by aftermarket upfitters. Though we haven’t driven this vehicle (and we may never), we’re inclined to agree, because a purpose-built tool usually performs its tasks better than anything modified after-the-fact.
Click here to read article on Consumer Guide Automotive.