VPG’s MV-1 vs BraunAbility…which is the better choice?

Review originally written for the New Mobility Blog and posted here with permission.

I’ve been hearing about the new wheelchair accessible vehicle by the Vehicle Production Group called the MV-1 for about a year now, and actually, when we were in Chicago last week, I saw the semi parked on Navy Pier. Apparently VPG decided to go on a cross-country promotional tour in order to get to Washington, DC in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  I had not heard any specifics about this vehicle until I did some hunting around online and it will certainly fill a particular need for the disabled and mobility impaired, but it’s not for everyone.

I’ve mentioned before that I am currently the proud owner of a Braun Entervan and have been absolutely in love with it since I got it over 5 years ago (I had 2 previous accessible minivans of different conversions before, but this one is my favorite). It fits my needs perfectly. The downside is that it’s a very expensive vehicle (and I have a “low end” conversion).

With all the press about the new MV-1, it seems like an appropriate time to write about wheelchair accessible vehicles, what to look for, and how to decide which route to go.

There are other accessible/adaptive vehicle manufacturers besides Braun and generally in the same price range (a new vehicle will begin at $50,000; used wheelchair vans can be purchased via Ebay or wheelchair van dealers for less and sometimes can be quite good deals). Braun (and other) vehicles can be driven by disabled drivers with adapted seating, steering, and gas and brake options (which add to the cost). However, some of those costs can be defrayed by state and federal grants which are designed to help disabled people go to work (to learn more about this, contact the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in your state). Also, these accessible minivans come from a variety of existing vehicle manufacturers, in particular, Chrysler, GM, and Toyota.

From the looks of things on their website, it seems that the MV-1 will start at about $40,000 for a new vehicle and is designed for the disabled or elderly passenger (*not* primary driver). The accessible vehicle utilized universal design concepts, which means that the design is meant to be used equally as easily for able-bodied and mobility impaired passengers. It is their own vehicle design, not a custom design of an existing car model. One of the positive aspects of the MV-1 is that it also can be multi-purpose, most specifically as part of a taxi or other municipal fleet of cars which can be used by able-bodied and mobility impaired folks alike.

So now we revisit the topic of this post…if the person driving the vehicle is disabled, then going with a Braun is probably the best solution due to the ability to customize the minivan for the person directly.  If, on the other hand, you are looking for a vehicle to transport a disabled, wheelchair using person and/or an older family member who no longer drives, the MV-1 is worth looking into with the caveat that it is a brand-new vehicle to the market and not everyone feels comfortable with purchasing the first year model of a new car.

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14 thoughts on “VPG’s MV-1 vs BraunAbility…which is the better choice?

  1. Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

    I can’t wait to see this vehicle up close. I think it will be great for transporting my son with cp and his friends. I’m so excited to see a
    vehicle that had some style!

  2. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

    One of the biggest issues is who is going to service this vehicle? Braun has a dealer network that stetches across the country to service their customers. The MV-1 is using Ford Dealer’s for the drivetrain, but what happens when the ramp fails? Who will be there to help them. I know my local Braun Dealer stated that they will not be a service dealer and all the other dealers are not as well. I just feel like you need someone to be there for you when it breaks.

  3. Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

    I have a direct relationship with VPG and welcome more questions like Danny has asked. The dealer and warranty network will be announced really soon. You will be thoroughly impressed with the coverage and support that will be available. Stay tuned and sign up on facebook or the VPG website (vpgautos.com) for more information as it becomes available.

    The Canadian network is complete and it also does not include any Braun dealers. The Canadian Dealer Network has over 500 service dealer locations so how big do you think the US Network will be?

    Great things coming soon and for the first time PURPOSE BUILT not cut into pieces and put back together with Scotch Tape and Staples.

    Why didnt Braun think of this? Simple, ask them.

  4. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    As the dealer for the state of Michigan for the MV-1, I can say that this vehicle is absolutely loved by those that have purchased it. As mentioned, it is for the disabled individual to be the passenger but there is a company working on a simple modification allowing them to drive the vehicle as well. Look for that in maybe 12 months or so. I’ve taken the vehicle to our adaptation source and they have said a set of hand controls will be no problem to install. I would be happy to answer any questions anyone may have on the MV-1. Direct any emails to jparis@alserra.com.

  5. Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    MV-1 is now available and early comments have been very positive. Keep in mind, these vehicles are mass produced, and any individual’s disability needs custom adaptations for independent driving solutions. MV-1 has pre-engineered mounts under the dash to facilitate hand control installation, and the driver’s seat pedestal is ready to be converted to a power transfer seat. We are working on power door operators and several other upfits.
    There are big benefits to all factory construction- all configurations of the MV-1 are fully crash tested and meet NTSB safety requirements. One of the major reasons no company has made a purpose-built wheelchair access vehicle is because the federal testing is over before you even start modifying an existing vehicle. VPG literally had to write the book on OEM mobility vehicles. Now many of it’s features have become new ADA standards!

  6. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    I am in somewhat immediate need for a wheelchair accessible van for my adult child who will be the passenger. I have a few questions:
    Is it possible to obtain an MV-1 in less than 30 days?
    Are there now servicing locations for both the drivetrain and the Braun equipment in most major cities? Do they publish a list thereof? If so where is it?
    Am I to understand that the doors are not power operated? The disabled person should be able to operate the side door with a button, and deploy the ramp automatically so that he can load and unload himself.

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      I’m buying a MV-1 and they’re adding hand controls and an automatic door and fob for ramp extend. There’s a 4K rebate and I’m trading a 2008 AMS VAN with a side ramp and they’re giving me 20K on the trade in. My out of pocket is 22K delivered. This is the DX model . One up from the base model. I’ll get delivery in 30 days . I live in the Dallas Tx. market and there’s a dealer here so that helps.

  7. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    As an owner of a Braun Entervan, Chevrolet Uplander for 7 years it has recently become a costly “nightmare.” Because it’s been modified the floor and sides, conveniently covered by plastic panels rusted out in 5 years. It has only been driven 67,000 miles and I replaced the transmission, also, the gas tank and kneeling chain needs to be replaced at a cost of $1,960 and the hydraulics and the trailing arm bushings need replacing for and additional $3,000. I have maintained this van very well 0ver the years, it still look new at first glance, and was hoping to get to at least 100,000 miles or more with proper maintenance. I for one, welcome the MV-1 and am hopefully in the process of acquiring one due to the fact it’s built from the ground up and not modified by welding on a new floor as Braun does during its assembly.

  8. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Not happy with our Braun Entervan. We have had nothing but problems with ours. Braun has repaired the problems but they just keep coming back. Poor quality engineering and design. Prone to freequent break downs. When you are disabled the last thing you need is to be stranded in the middle of nowhere. They released our van after modification without doing an alignment. When we serviced our van at the dealership we bought it from we were told our tires were worn beyond limits because of the wheel alignment. It was the worst alignment issue they had seen. Braun says they have paperwork that the alignment was done and won’t help us with the cost of the tire replacement. We know and they know the alignment wa never done. They take no responsibility for their poor product. We’ve had the sliding door fall off on the ramp side because they damaged the upper roller when they we modifying the van. It caused the roller to come out of the upper track and fall of the van causing alot of damage. We’ve had the van in for problems with the kneeling feature a total of six times. And it needs work again. The kneeling actuator started running on it own and wouldn’t stop until I pulled the fuses. I had to keep pulling and replacing them each time I needed to use the ramp. The side impact sensor for the SRS system was improperly wired during modification and had to be repaired. The alignment issue as mentioned before. And everything is rusting already. We try to keep up with lubricating and cleaning what we can see. Worried about what we can’t see. Having issues with the airbag system again. And the cooling line in the right rear wheel well has wear on it from the tire rubbing on it. Apparently the design for the location of the lines wasn’t thought out well enough. Stay away from this if you can’t afford the future maintenance. We really wish there was something out there people could count on.

  9. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    We are thinking of purchasing a VPG MV1. Very little information. I would love an independent personal review from someone who bought an MV1.
    I am in a power chair and want to drive a vehicle independently.
    I heard they are coming out in 2013 with an optional power door, in addition to the power ramp.

  10. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    NEW YORK (JANUARY 10) – Today the Vehicle Production Group LLC (VPG) unveiled the MV-1 automobile, the first vehicle ever designed from the ground up to be a completely wheelchair-accessible vehicle. The MV-1, assembled at a plant in Indiana, features a fully-deployable side ramp, can accommodate up to six occupants – including wheelchairs and motorized scooters – and is the only vehicle that meets or exceeds guidelines set forth under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  11. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    The crew at VPG autos realized that if they just changed the color scheme of their Standard Taxi they could broaden their list of potential clients. For that reason, they will begin production during the second half of 2010 of their Mobility Vehicle called the MV-1, a vehicle designed from the ground up to meet the needs of the disabled.

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