NMEDA Auto Access

VMI Awarded Rear-Suspension Patent

Mike Schmidt (left) and Neil O’Leary designed the rear suspension system that was awarded a patent.

Engineering efforts to convert Honda’s Odyssey minivan into a wheelchairaccessible vehicle have led to a patent being awarded to Vantage Mobility International (VMI), the manufacturer has announced.

The patent, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, is for a rear suspension design used in wheelchair-accessible minivans with lowered floors. Veteran VMI engineers Neil O’Leary and Mike Schmidt are being credited as the inventors.

According to a VMI news release, O’Leary and Schmidt were working on a way to equip a Honda Odyssey with a lowered-floor ramp and had to consider a number of factors, including the vehicle’s post-conversion ride and handling abilities, as well as interior room, ride height and the cost of the conversion.

Ultimately, VMI reports, the modified Odyssey “maintains OEM suspension kinematics, has similar ride and handling characteristics of an unconverted Odyssey and has maximum wheelchair maneuvering room.”

The rear suspension design is also being used by VMI to make Chrysler Town & Country minivans accessible for wheelchair users.

U.S. Patent number 7,837,303 is now marked on the rear suspensions of all VMI Honda Odysseys.

“We encourage our team’s creative thinking to provide the mobility market with great products at fair prices,” says Ted Larson, VP of engineering. “Mike Schmidt and Neil O’Leary represent the caliber of both our people and the products they build.”

Doug Eaton, VMI’s president, added, “One of the reasons we support fair trade competition is the tremendous engineering and intellectual capital poured into every project. This patent demonstrates the value of that completion for everyone who needs a wheelchair van.”

Vantage Mobility International is based in Phoenix.

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Mobility Management.

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