Auto Access Systems Floor Dealers & Mobility Clients Alike

When someone offers to give you the ins and outs of a situation, you're in for a long, detailed explanation.

When a mobility customer wants the ins and outs, simplicity becomes the order of the day. They're talking about a smooth way to get from the outside of a vehicle into a seat inside - the fewer steps, the better.

The market for automotive access devices is growing beyond multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury patients. War veterans with amputations struggle with balance, stroke victims battle steadiness problems, even those with stiffening joints from old sports injuries often find themselves needing assistance.

It's one reason Andrew Bayer, product manager of the automotive division at Bruno Independent Living Aids, believes Chrysler's PT Cruiser sales soared when it was introduced in 2000. As a crossover vehicle (CUV), its seating measured 24 to 27 inches from the ground (as opposed to a standard car's 17 to 18 inches), providing the perfect height to hit adults ... well, in the seat. No lowering involved. "They can rotate their butt on the seat toward the exit and easily stand up," he describes.

Unfortunately, most mobility consumers are attached to their pickups, SUVs and old Caddies. The market offers something for nearly everyone, but matching a client to the right access system can be complicated for a dealer. For starters, some turning automotive seating systems function both in and out; others cover only the interior needs. Auto access suppliers need to have a clear, detailed understanding of the driver's or passengers' needs.

Bruno's product family can take a person from sidewalk to buckled in, and the systems are removable, so they can be installed on a temporary basis. Urge the customer to keep the original seats for resale value down the road - they'll likely want to take their access system with them to the next vehicle.

The system can be retrofitted to more than 300 makes and models across what the manufacturers call lower and higher vehicles: Lower reads like the compact/standard/sedan list at a rental car company; higher includes minivans, trucks and SUVs. The system plugs into the existing seat tracks, so it's a bolt-in job as opposed to drilling into slide rails and removing wiring. Some situations call for a door extender to allow the owner enough maneuvering space, however, which is one reason sports cars can't get this retrofit. Miatas, Corvettes, Mustangs and Boxsters need not apply.

The other drawback: Consumers can't switch vehicle classes down the road. If they purchase for an Odyssey, it won't install later in a Taurus.

B&D Independence Inc.'s transfer seat base strictly addresses seating once a person is inside the vehicle. This product mounts underneath the original seat to move it back approximately 20 inches, elevate 6 inches and rotate 100 degrees. This way, owners get to keep their heated leather captain's chairs, but the trade-off is that it's permanent, says president John Evans. Nor can you install it in vehicles smaller than a minivan. After all, you need the interior space to make these large adjustments.

Yet again, "no drilling" is the watchword on the installation front - the system locks into pockets in the floor, which is already the most stable spot. "The manufacturer mounted its seat there, so we mount our seat base to it," Evans says.

"We want to eliminate as much modification at the dealer level as we can," he adds. Call it self-defense. "If I buy a new car, the last thing I want somebody to do is start drilling on it."

About the Author

Award-winning journalist Julie Sturgeon of CEOEditor, Inc., is an online contributing writer for Mobility Management.

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