Chicago 2017: BraunAbility Brings New Chrysler Pacifica Style to Everyone
One in five Americans lives with some sort of disability, per the U.S. Census Bureau, including 3.8 million veterans. Not every disability requires a customized vehicle, but the minivan has become the ideal solution for those who do.
BraunAbility has worked since 1972 to adapt vehicles for those who need them, and unveiled its new upfitted Chrysler Pacifica at the Chicago Auto Show.
Per Joe Garnett, Braun’s director of marketing, between three and four million Americans rely on wheelchairs every day. As all of the companies converting vehicles for wheelchair access are private, so we don’t have specific sales figures, but Garnett told TTAC that BraunAbility owns nearly half of the entire adapted vehicle market.
BraunAbility sources its customized components from the same Tier One suppliers as do major OEMs, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and these modified vehicles are held to the same safety standard as the vehicles on which they are based. That includes crash tests.
That’s no small feat, as building these heavily customized vans requires reimagining them entirely. BraunAbility engineered an entirely new, high-strength steel subfloor to make a significantly lowered floor possible. The rear suspension is redesigned, as well, to compensate for the lowered floor and raised ride height.
That raised ride height is disguised somewhat by body extensions surrounding the van, which integrate steps for front seat access.
BraunAbility re-engineered the sliding door to widen the entrance by approximately five inches since the existing Pacifica slider doesn’t quite open all the way. Adding this more complicated door mechanism increases the upfitted van’s cost significantly, but allows for a wider access ramp for easier loading and unloading.
Chrysler Pacifica standard sliding door versus sliding door modified by BraunAbility for wheelchair access.
Upfitting adds roughly $25,000 to $35,000 to the base price of the Pacifica, Braun’s Kim Hanson explained. Prices vary as disabilities themselves vary, and each dealer will adapt the Pacifica to the needs of the user.
Certainly, this makes the upfitted Pacifica rather expensive. A base Pacifica starts around $30,000 from a Chrysler dealer, meaning a BraunAbility-modified example will run at least $55,000. Granted, that’s a small price to pay to enhance the independence of individuals with disabilities.
A collective “aww” was released by the gathered crowd as a pair of assistance dogs trained by Canine Companions for Independence strutted on the stage. These dogs train for several years to fit the needs of their human friends, and are provided free of charge to their people. One dog and his owner, featured in the video below, wowed the crowd with the pups’ skill at pulling the wheelchair-bound owner up the ramp into the Pacifica, and with the dog’s skill at using the onboard vacuum to clean up his own shedded hair.
More information about this upfitted Pacifica, including local dealers, is available at BraunAbility.com.
[Images: Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]
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