NMEDA Auto Access
Looking Forward: Mobility Industry 2011 Outlook
While commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA) last year, we were reminded
that full accessibility for more than 4 million American wheelchair
users is not yet a reality. Much remains to be accomplished.
A Gradual Recovery
Recognizing the realities of the marketplace, let’s start our look
forward with a brief look back at 2010. The biggest issue at
hand was the economic recession and how customer demand
and affordability were affected. Although the mobility industry
wasn’t hit quite as hard as the general economy, the recession
certainly had an impact. Sales are lagging below peak levels in
2007, but, consistent with the general automotive market, we’ve
seen a slow recovery.
There are a number of factors contributing to the slowness of
Consumer attitudes and perceptions have had a major role.
As long as consumers are nervous about the general health
of the economy and their own personal finances, this issue
will be a persistent drag on sales. Of course, the difficulty in
obtaining credit has had a major impact on customer affordability.
Additionally, the reduced availability of low-mileage,
pre-owned chassis has impacted the industry’s opportunity to
provide a lower entry price point.
Looking forward, there are several issues at hand — all of
which will make 2011 a very interesting and exciting year for
the mobility industry. Certainly, everyone is looking forward
to a real economic recovery in 2011. While there are bits and
pieces of good news, there are also indications that the recovery
might be slower than we’d all like. For instance, we’ve all seen
the recent increase in gas prices. Let’s be cautiously optimistic!
Awareness of Mobility Products
We’re all familiar with a major issue that’s been hindering sales
— the lack of consumer awareness of our industry and product
offerings. Efforts by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers
Association (NMEDA), mobility dealers, and manufacturers will
produce a real increase in awareness in 2011. We predict that
this will have a positive impact on customer demand.
The increase in customer choices will also have a positive
impact on our industry. Dodge, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota all
have new minivan offerings in the 2011 model year, providing
our customers with an excellent range of choices that address a
wide variety of needs.
The next issue at hand is customer affordability. Issues impacting the industry in 2010 will likely
linger into 2011. There are two ways to
approach this issue. The first is to develop
and offer less expensive vehicles — being
more innovative with both our product
planning and our business processes can
and will take cost out. Braun has been and
will continue to aggressively address costs
in 2011. We expect that all businesses associated
with the mobility industry, be they
manufacturers or dealers, will do the same.
The second way of addressing customer
affordability is to be more creative and
innovative with methods of reducing
customer payments. The general automotive
market has many examples of these
methods, and 2011 may be a good year for
us to experiment with creative financing
A perennial issue is that of distribution. The brick-and-mortar
concept works extremely well in our industry. The local expertise
and support provided by mobility dealers has yet to be duplicated.
Yet, the Internet-direct sellers persist and will continue to
be an option for our customer base. The increasing expertise of
local dealers and brick-and-mortar-committed manufacturers,
particularly in the area of web marketing, is vital to ensuring that
we grow our business and expand the customer base.
The brick-and-mortar mobility dealer body is maturing, with
improved business processes, better marketing and in some
cases, consolidation of ownership. We predict that this trend
will continue in 2011.
Finally, we need to recognize the important role of NMEDA.
There are several initiatives underway, but one of notable importance
to all is NMEDA’s role as an independent verifier of manufacturer
safety testing. Our customers expect that our product
offerings meet or exceed government safety standards. With
NMEDA’s help, customers finally have an independent source
verifying that manufacturers have complied with relevant government
safety standards. And that’s definitely a positive!
As we begin 2011, let’s remember that our products are truly
life-changing for our customers. Every day we provide freedom
to individual customers and families in very unique ways. Let’s
keep our eye on the ball and stay focused so that we can make
2011 a very special year for the thousands of people who will
enjoy and value the products and services we’re offering.
This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Mobility Management.
About the Author
Greg Cook, VP of BraunAbility, is responsible for establishing the overall direction of Braun’s sales & marketing organization, including Braun’s consumer and commercial dealer distribution channels.