Tech-on-Tech Teaches Automotive Mobility Fundamentals


STANTON, Calif. — Think of it as a mobility outreach... with a free dinner thrown in.

The atmosphere at The Ability Center's Tech-on-Tech event was as laid-back as the comfort food that was served up: ribs and cornbread catered by Johnny Reb's Southern Roadhouse. But the underlying goal of the evening was more serious: To familiarize local car dealers with accessible minivans and other adaptive automotive equipment, from in-floor ramps to hands-only driving controls. Some dealers had never seen this type of assistive technology before.

The Ability Center, a mobility dealer and member of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), held the Tech-on-Tech talks on successive days at its three locations in Stanton, Calif., San Diego and Las Vegas. Representatives from Braun Corp./IMS, Vantage Mobility International (VMI) and Vision by Viewpoint Mobility explained basics ranging from warranty policies to types of modifications to whom car dealers can call for tech support on accessible vehicles. They also gave out wiring schematics, technical diagrams and resource guides.

The Ability Center's Stanton GM, Terry Barton, said the company invited technicians, service and sales managers from local car dealerships. Those who attend the event will be listed as partners on The Ability Center's Web site. Citing the "rapidly growing industry," Barton says it's important for car dealerships to know the automakers "do support these conversions." After the tech portion of the program, Barton fielded questions from attendees. A sample question: "Have you had any contact with Enterprise (rental cars)?"

"We have at least six vehicles available for rental," Barton answered.

Braun's Matt Ford, the area sales manager who participated in the Tech-on-Tech events, called such educational opportunities great for "rapport building. We can use as much exposure as we can get in this industry."

Roger "Tiger" Desmarais, a senior support technician for VMI, told the car dealers in attendance, "It's important that the customer be inconvenienced as little as possible" when an accessible vehicle rolls into a dealership for service. To assure efficient turn-around, "information and communication (between car dealers and mobility dealers) are the most important things," he said.

Brad Messenger, a warranty/service manager from Viewpoint Mobility, emphasized that service should be done "as quickly and seamlessly as possible" because of how much people with disabilities depend on their accessible vehicles. Agreed Braun's Justin Riendeau, mobility customers "can't just jump into any rental car."

Added Desmarais, "We will give you any and all information necessary to get the vehicle back on the road."

This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of Mobility Management.

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