By on October 20, 2009

AM General MV-1 (courtesy:hummerguy.net)

If you think about it, AM General really is a pioneer in the 21st Century automotive industry. How so, you ask? By cutting out the consumer and building its business around government vehicle buyers. From GM to Better Place, almost everyone in the business either owes a government money or is pitching a future based on government assistance or involvement. By this logic, the GM-Hummer experiment was a predictable disaster, eschewing AM General’s core strength and attempting to build a consumer brand. But with Hummer as good as sold off, AM General is going back to its bread and butter, showing off this MV-1 developed in conjunction with the Vehicle Production Group.”The vehicle is the first purpose-built vehicle for people in wheelchairs,” VPG’s chief marketing officer tells The Freep. “Every municipality has to offer on-demand service for the disabled as a result of the Americans With Disabilities Act.” See how that works? That’s how you build a vehicle with built-in demand.

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30 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Meet The New Hummer Edition...”


  • avatar
    mpresley

    What, oh what did the crippled do before the government mandated that taxpayers foot the bill for “on demand” services? Obviously they must have withered and died an early and miserable death without government help. Thanks, government.

    • 0 avatar
      jcil

      I’ll tell you what this old fart  (I don’t use the C-word) wheelchair user did.  No, I didn’t wither and die. Thanks to the ADA, I used public transportation (available to everyone, including Elvis) to go to work. I now pay enough taxes to support at least three withered old Elvis’ – own my own wheelchair accessible van – and can’t wait for the MV-1 to be on the market.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Lo and behold – Meet the new Checker.

    I would bet my farm (if I had one) that AM General has not only the disabled people in sight, but the entire taxi market as well. This would make a great taxi.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    You mean that’s not an Element? I’m stunned. Honda should sue.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    mpresley :
    October 20th, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    What, oh what did the crippled do before the government mandated that taxpayers foot the bill for “on demand” services? Obviously they must have withered and died an early and miserable death without government help. Thanks, government.

    Many were shut ins or spent excessive amounts of money on specialized transportation.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    I’m so happy to see that the Detroit-Washington, uh, partnership can build a Honda Element.

  • avatar
    dmrdano

    Retrofitting mass-market vehicles is difficult and expensive because major structural changes generally have to me made (it is especially difficult in unibody vehicles). Purpose-building vehicles for this segment is difficult and expensive due to the relatively small number of units to be sold. AM General has a history of designing vehicle platforms (HUMVEE and military trucks) that are adaptable, thereby reducing the cost barrier to building vehicles that can meet smaller market segments. If anyone can do it, AM General can. The fact that government entities will buy most of them is irrelevant; they are going to buy something, it may as well be this model.

    Most people I have known with mobility difficulties (and that is quite a few) meet the challenge head-on. Getting from point A to point B can be one of the toughest issues, as their opportunities are limited if they cannot get out of the house. I have no problem with providing an assist within reason. I guess I am a bleeding heart conservative.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    I can imagine what the ad copy will say “We’ve built the car that the government will buy for you.”

  • avatar

    I don’t see how building a limited production, purpose built vehicle can be more cost effective than re-engineering or retrofiting and existing mass market vehicle like the Dodge Caravan or Honda Odyssey. Unless, the taxpayers eat all of the development and tooling costs.

    The Humvee is soon to be replaced. International is already building the MaxxPro MRAP and several other companies are competing to build the Humvee’s longer term replacement. It sounds like AM General is trying to create another guaranteed government contract for when Hummer production is eventually phased out.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Geotpf :Many were shut ins or spent excessive amounts of money on specialized transportation.

    Really, now? Could be. But others got on with their lives, and overcame problems due to initiative along with help from family, church, and good-hearted civic organizations. On the other hand, I know some “regular” people who are self-imposed shut-ins, and also plenty of people who spend “excessive” amounts of money on transportation. I’m thinking these needs could also constitute a claim on citizen taxpayers, too. With this in mind I vote to you raise your taxes to support everyone with some kind of need. It’s only fair.

    But, getting back to the article, and to show you that I’ve a heart, I do think that a van allowing wheelchair access for less than 40 is probably not a bad deal. Therefore, I’d rather see this kind of thing subsidized someway than the generic C4C, or another war in a country few Americans could even find on a map.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I was in front of a little country store close to Chimacum, WA, parked next to a 71 (or so) Dart 4-door. A guy in a wheelchair came out of the store; when he passed in front of me I saw that he had no legs. He went to the right rear door of the Dart, opened it, hoisted himself onto the seat, and pulled the wheelchair into the car, folding it as he did so. Then he went up over the back of the front seat, started the car, and drove off. No handicap plates or hang tag on the car. Obviously the hand controls for the brake and throttle were the only adaptation the car had.

    Determination and drive count for a lot.

  • avatar

    Google “ramp van”. This is nothing new. You could say this is the first production ramp van. But I have to ask which would result in the lower cost: 1) Setting up dedicated production for nothing but this…and not selling all that many
    2) Modifying new vans in small batches.
    Of course with people living longer and being more obese, I *guess* there might be a growing market.
    I know! A *sports* ramp van…or…a rough terrain ramp van for the outdoorsy handicapped with one of those awesome tracked ‘not-wheelchairs’.

    What is really wanted is a slew of game-changing products that the world wants to buy.
    Anything is either niche or delusional…and won’t help the crying need for real employment, as opposed to service jobs and financial sector legerdemain.
    That is what should be taught at business schools, not spread-sheet tricks and right-sizing.

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    I use a wheelchair and would not drive that thing. It takes me under 30 seconds to take the wheels off and lift the chair in my car by hand. Still too slow compared to not having a chair at all.

    I would never buy a van either. And all the lifts and accessories can double the price of the vehicle pretty easily. And doing a ramp on a Voyager means cutting off half the floor to lower it inside.. Transit connect and similiar is much better in this regard.

    Im still looking for the closest thing to a bike i could drive and still fit my chair inside and use as a daily driver. And that would not bankrupt me doing so.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    Based on the picture it looks like ingress/egress will be top notch. Might be sketchy on a rainy day or during a side impact though.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    This vehicle was previously known as the Standard Taxi, and the original design was even more of a box.

    Hmmm, a body-on-frame taxi, arriving just when the Panther is being discontinued. How about that? The other half of the design/manufacture team: http://www.vpgautos.com/

  • avatar
    dean

    geggamoya: wait until you’re a little older. A paraplegic co-worker finally broke down and bought a converted Odyssey (with ramp) because at his age (69) he was having increasing difficulty transferring into his old van (standard except for hand controls).

    As for cost, it was well over $80,000 Canadian all-in. Some serious coin, and a big part of the reason this fellow is my co-worker and not my former and now retired co-worker.

    And this looks like a cost-effective alternative to the huge modified Econolines that our regional transit authority uses for our “on-demand” transit fleet.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    It’s just a taxicab which is also suitable for use with a wheelchair.

    Checker built taxicabs as a private concern from 1923 to 1982. Checker also built Handi-Cabs with raised roofs, longer 129″ wheelbase (instead of 120″) and wheelchair ramps – just like this – in 1969. Nobody bought them. They quit making them.

    Many of these vehicles will be bought by taxicab companies which haven’t had the opportunity to purchase purpose-built cars since 1982.

    Not just government entities. Though I grant you, that many will be sold that way.

    Likewise, the purpose-built police car I’ve seen photos of may find a market, though I think the case is far weaker for that type of vehicle.

    Other purpose-built vehicles using underpinnings of mass produced vehicles include ambullances and hearses.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Irvine

    I really feel obliged to comment on this one.

    First, for all those people suggesting they have seen amputees vaulting over seats etc. I have a friend with MS who could no more climb over seats than I can fly. He has a ramp van and would love one of these.

    Second, please, please design it so it can be built in both right and left hand drive. Now your niche market is increased by those special people in Japan, Australia, India, UK, New Zealand and South Africa. (Who will appreciate the U.S. Gov chipping in.)

    Thirdly, if you can make money building London cabs or police cars or post vans, you can make money with this.

    Lastly, I have seen some great vehicles designed around motor scooters, Vespa style, where the back end is converted to two widely spaced wheels with a ramp between. You just roll your wheelchair in there and drive away. Scooter controls are all hand-based by default.

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    dean–> I hope i stil have at least 40 years left before i need one of those then.. ;) My friends fathers MB Vito van cost around 100k euros, he drives with a joystick and the car has a lift. Quite expensive stuff.. Im paraplegic and still young so if needed i can drive by pressing the pedals with a broomstick so don’t really need any expensive extras.

    Spike_in_Irvine–> Around here the Vespa thingies you describe have been around for a long
    time.. http://forums.offipalsta.com/picture.php?albumid=1078&pictureid=15082 if the picture works. An old moped based three wheeled thing that looks like its left wheel drive :) type “invamopo” in google if you want more pics.

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    Pretty it isn’t, but I can see this becoming a strong fleet vehicle for hospitals and retirement homes, as well as a subsidized vehicle for the disabled. Hopefully they’ll keep the engine and equipment modest to rein in the costs. Kudos to AM General, though, it’s good to see they weren’t just a one-trick pony.

  • avatar
    Rix

    The Soviets used to have a car, the Invalidka, that they gave out to invalids for free. It had a moped engine, I believe.

    I am familiar with AM General and believe they can make money on small production runs, since they own most of the tooling altogether. Probably they have the idea for an entire family of vehicles- delivery, police, taxi, etc. Perhaps a kind of panther plus which would amortize their tooling and might be able to reuse the military humvee production line.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    What’s wrong with the picture: It doesn’t show that this “new, clean sheet design” uses a 4 speed automatic and a 4.3L Vortec V6.

    Boxy styling and nostalgic tech. Wow.

  • avatar
    dmrdano

    One of my friends drives two-door cars, as he has learned to slide into the driver’s seat, fold the chair, and slip it behind his seat. However, without upper body strength that puts me to shame, he would never be able to do it.

    I doubt these vehicles will sell in any large quantity to individuals due to cost, but mostly to agencies that provide assisted transportation. However, I really like the design. I believe it will sell at a price that transit companies will be able to handle, and could have cross-marketing appeal (taxi, shuttle, catering vans, special delivery, etc.).

  • avatar
    gfen

    When I saw the picture, I thought this was going to be some sort of new Element. Same lights, same new corp grill….But its an AM General?

    People on the Element owners’ forums did refer to their cars as an H.5, maybe there was more truth than we realized…

  • avatar
    TonUpBoi

    Wheelchair accessable motorcycle? Start checking the biker custom motorcycle mags. I’m used to seeing combination consisting of a Big Twin with a sidecar – on the sidecar is just a platform with locks. Wheel your chair onto the sidecar, lock it down, then hoist yourself over to the rider’s seat. Hand controls, of course (that’s easy to do, the shop where I work has done a couple of VTX1300′s like that).

    Never underestimate a biker who’s had a doctor tell him, “You’ll never ride again.”

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    I don’t get the complaints.

    A manufacturer has found a niche market where they believe they can sell enough vehicles to be successful.

    The market exists and they’re trying to fill it.
    What’s wrong with that?

    I’ve often wondered whether the taxi market is big enough to support a niche manufacturer these days.

    In Japan, Toyota has specifically designed vehicle for the Taxi market. I don’t know the number of taxi’s in the U.S. and I don’t know how many companies would be willing to invest in a specialty vehicle, but it would be worth examining.

  • avatar

    @ Lokkii – There was a time when the big cities required taxi fleets to operate purpose built taxi cabs. During this time Checker flurished. When the big cities changed regulations allowing taxi companies to use mass market sedans, Checker could not compete with Ford, GM and Chrysler.

    This is a challenge facing Carbon Motors. If Ford drops the CVPI as planned, if Chrysler goes under and the Dodge Charger is no loner available, if GM does not follow through with the proposed Holden Statesman based Chevy Caprice, and if police departments do not warm up to smaller fwd and awd Ford and GM cars – then Carbon Motors might have a chance with its low-volume, purpose-built, police car. If Ford or GM remain the dominant players in the police car market Carbon will be in trouble.


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