October 25, 2014

Auto Manufacturing

Wheels for Wheelchairs

Dave Schembri
CEO Dave Schembri
A Miami car company will make history this month when its first vehicles begin rolling off the assembly line. Vehicle Production Group's MV-1 is the first factory-built automobile designed for wheelchair passengers.

The MV-1 can accommodate wheelchairs in the front passenger area and has a built-in access ramp, an extra-wide entry, lots of headroom and strong safety standards. It's priced lower than conversions, starting at $39,950.

"This is a market that has been woefully underserved," says Dave Schembri, VPG's CEO. With some 4 million full-time wheelchair users in the U.S. alone, plus another 14 million Americans with severe mobility issues, the market includes individual consumers, taxicab companies, government paratransit services and limousine companies.

The 50-employee Vehicle Production Group uses Ford engines and transmissions and contracted Humvee manufacturer AM General to assemble the vehicles at AM General's Indiana plant.

The company's first buyer will be Marc Buoniconti, president and co-founder of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the University of Miami's spinal cord injury research center. A quadriplegic since he was injured playing in a college football game more than 25 years ago, Buoniconti has been consulting with VPG since he first saw the MV-1 prototype. "It's not just one thing that makes this an awesome vehicle," he says. "It's the green technology; it's the safety, price; it's the fact that it's been built for the
disabled community."

The cars will be sold through VPG's website, vpgautos.com, and a network of dealers, who are expected to take the MV-1 on the road to rehab hospitals, special needs group meetings, malls and other places where likely customers might gather. The company hopes they'll soon be getting there by way of MV-1.

MV-1
The MV-1 is the first factory-built vehicle in the U.S. that offers an optional compressed natural gas engine. The vehicle, which has an extra large entry, will start at about $40,000.

Tags: Miami-Dade

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single ditgital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Fabien Cousteau
Fabien Cousteau

This summer, Fabien Cousteau lived for 31 days aboard the Aquarius, an underwater research laboratory nine miles off the coast of Florida.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

How much do you get into Halloween?

  • I'm into it - parties, decorating, theme parks, whatever I can fit in
  • I just participate for the kids
  • Boo - I keep the lights off to avoid trick-or-treaters

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe