Wheelchair-Accessible Vans Need More Bling?

By Jason Davis | April 30, 2012
The wheelchair-vehicle automotive segment is not one that often gets press, but an interesting and unsurprising trend is emerging now that thousands of mostly young, injured veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are in need of transportation. "They just don't want minivans," said Doug Eaton, president and chief executive of Vantage Mobility International in Phoenix. "The problem with a minivan is just that — it's a minivan." Over the past couple years, Eaton's VMI has been tasked with trying to make the extremely practical minivans more appealing to so-called millennial "gen Y'ers." What he and others have found is that many disabled drivers choose form over function with less practical, but cooler, vehicles like trucks and SUVs. As a result, Eaton is adding flashy wheels, leather seats, and carbon-fiber dashboard covers to his fleet of minivans. According to the Detroit News, the wheelchair-vehicle market sells about 15,000 modified minivans per year, and some expect 8- to 10-percent growth. But the market is changing, and is now shaped by two distinct groups: the aging baby boomers; and the more image-conscious Gen-Y'ers. "Our client base is older, and they don't mind minivans," Eaton said. "But we've also got to deal with this shift to young veterans. We're trying to bring a little bling to the table." A Veteran's take: The wounded-in-action deserve better than a couple yahoos trying to upsell a cheesy minivan, and using the word "bling" to young adults who have fought overseas is about as respectful as saying you support the troops because you bought a yellow ribbon sticker for your Hummer or Escalade. So here's a little tip: You don't "also got to deal with this shift to young veterans." Instead of appeasing them with the equivalent of a flashy short bus, talk to them and work with them to develop a better solution. They didn't ask for their wounds, but they'll sure appreciate being a part of the mobility solution, especially if they can help fellow veterans. Source: Detroit News