With all due respect to Janis Joplin, freedom is not just another word for nothing else to lose. For America’s 14 million adults using wheelchairs and scooters, freedom means mobility. Vehicle Production Group had them in mind when it designed its MV-1, the first purpose-built vehicle for members of the disability community and their caregivers.
Wheelchair-accessible vehicles have been on the road for years. Typically, they’re minivans that undergo extensive and expensive aftermarket conversion, easily doubling the vehicle’s original sticker price while voiding the manufacturer’s warranty. Fit and finish and reliability are inconsistent also.
With production underway at AM General’s Indiana plant (the former home of HUMMER), the 2011 VPG MV-1 (for “first mobility vehicle”) should avoid those shortcomings and offer significant advantages.
Whether ordered in base SE trim starting at $39,950 or $41,950 for the DX (before any qualifying incentives), no modifications are required; the MV-1 meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards and is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. VPG opted for traditional body-on-frame construction for durability but insists ride quality doesn’t suffer for it. It seats up to six and is configurable to accept multiple wheelchairs at once. A generous side doorway, wheelchair ramp and tie-down points are already there, including the shotgun position next to a conventional cockpit (VPG states most owners won’t do the driving themselves).
From the driver’s seat, the layout is straightforward. Ford’s bulletproof 4.6-liter V-8 is mated to its common four-speed automatic gearbox. Green-minded owners can choose a factory-installed Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling system. Either way, VPG covers the powertrain with a five-year/75,000-mile warranty. That complements the three-year/36,000-mile bumper to bumper coverage, along with five years/75,000 miles for the ramp and five years/100,000 miles against corrosion.