Permobil Acquires TiLite

Permobil has acquired TiLite, the manufacturer of titanium and aluminum customized ultralightweight manual wheelchairs.

In announcing the acquisition, Permobil CEO Jon Sintorn said, "Over the years, Permobil has evolved from a family firm into a global leader in the complex rehabilitation power wheelchair industry. We are now dedicated to building a leading healthcare company with complex rehabilitation solutions - leveraging the latest technology and medical research to benefit the people we serve. TiLite contributes perfectly to this strategy."

David Lippes, CEO of TiLite, said about the deal, "The TiLite team is excited about having the opportunity to join forces with Permobil. Permobil has exceptional R&D capabilities and customer relations, and we share a focus on innovation and customization for the user. We look forward to being part of Permobil's journey to reshape the market for complex rehabilitation."

Changes for the Industry

In an interview with Mobility Management, Permobil Marketing Manager Barry Steelman said, "As of July 1, the biggest change that providers and clinicians are going to see is that Permobil sales reps will take over the sales responsibilities for TiLite."

Steelman also said the two manufacturers' clinical teams would be joining forces: "What you'll see is a combined education effort moving forward where when we have an education conference, it'll be a combined Permobil and TiLite conference." We have [TiLite Director of Sales & Education] Tina Roesler and [Permobil National Clinical Education Manager] Amy Morgan and [Permobil Clinical Education Specialist] Maggie Love, so we have some very good resources."

What you won't see, however, are massive changes to the TiLite brand itself, Steelman said.

"TiLite is a very strong brand," he pointed out, "and we're not going to change the TiLite brand whatsoever. You'll start seeing some joint efforts between Permobil and TiLite. We're going to be sharing ideas, of course; we're going to be bouncing ideas off each other. At tradeshows, you will probably in the future see us sharing a booth for the simple reason that we're sharing a sales force. But we're not going to diminish the TiLite brand in any way. It's got a lot of equity, and there's no way we're going to mess with a brand as strong as TiLite."

As part of the acquisition, Permobil also inherits the Out-Front suite of manual wheelchair performance and clinical products, including the Natural-Fit ergonomic handrim and SmartWheel tool that measures and analyzes propulsion efficiency. Steelman said the Out-Front products will retain their current branding as well.

Were Previous Collaborations a Sign of Things to Come?

The acquisition isn't the first time the two manufacturers - Timrå, Sweden-based Permobil and Pasco, Wash.-based TiLite - have joined forces. In September, TiLite announced that Permobil would represent the manufacturer in Canada. That was followed by an October announcement that Permobil would also represent TiLite in Florida and Puerto Rico.

In explaining the new sales representation agreements in September, Lippes said, "There is one company in the world that matches TiLite's vision that what matters most in mobility is quality and performance, and that company is Permobil."

At the International Seating Symposium in 2007, Permobil and TiLite, working also with The ROHO Group, launched Users First, dedicated to advocating for the rights of wheelchair consumers.

After news of the acquisition was released, Steelman said the two manufacturers were a good fit for each other.

"We felt all along that Permobil and TiLite are very similar companies, very similar in our beliefs that we put the end user first - that the reason we make chairs is to make their lives easier. The ways we conduct business, there are just a lot of similarities that we saw. We know we have the best in power. We wanted to be a part of the best in manual, and that's TiLite."

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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