Saturday, May 10, 2014

Meet the MV-1

Bookmark and Share
Keeping busy seems to be my thing these days.  Some days I think the busier I can keep myself the less I focus on the complicated things going on around me, often many times situations I have no control over like Medicaid Appeals, and the most recent SSI overpayment challenge.    So after I finished discussing stair lifts... I moved on to another appointment to check out the new 2014 MV-1. 
2014 MV-1
For those that aren't familiar with the MV-1, it's a handicapped accessible vehicle made by Ford.  It made it's debut a few years ago, but then took a hiatus in 2013 while it switched hands and was redistributed for sale.  It arrived at my home promptly at 6pm so that I could tell everyone all about it.   I'm not sure what to really think of it's exterior.   When people see it they give it all kinds of different labels like ugly or boxy.  It really it does look much like a European Taxi, and feels just like riding in one.  I think it may be shorter than a traditional conversion van, just by first glance, but not by much.  It has ADA compliant sized doors so that's an interesting feature.   It's not plush like most vehicles.  You aren't going to get that warm fuzzy cozy feeling from the MV-1.  It felt very industrial, business-like with rubberized flooring and vinyl seating.  Hardly the family type feeling that other traditional vehicles offer.  And it has very little creature comforts.

The ramp is what I was most drawn to.  It has the feature that recognizes the need for different ramp extension needs.  Do you only have room for 4 feet?  Do you have room to extend 6 feet?  It knows and can adjust which is a nice feature especially because you never know if someone is going to park too close to the side of your vehicle and leave you with too little room to extend a ramp.  I also like that it has an over-ride feature in the floor and comes with it's own tool to manually over-ride the ramp if it malfunctions in any way so that you do not wind up stranded.  It also has a kit in the trunk that allows you to instantly inflate a tire to fix and plug a flat so you also don't wind up stranded with a wheelchair user.   A bag in the back hangs for storage for your wheelchair tie-downs, lap belt and shoulder belt for your wheelchair user. 
Ramp Controls on Side of Door

Extended Ramp
Upon first glance I was a bit taken back by the fact it has no passenger seat.  None.  Driver's seat then next to it a hole... odd for me.  Not sure I liked that.  In fact I'm pretty sure I can tell you I don't like that part the more I sit here and really stew on it.  I tried to convince myself Noah might like riding in the front seat next to me.   But that would be odd too.  There is no air bag in the front passenger side, which is both good and bad.  Obviously good for a child Noah's size if he was going to be strapped right next to the driver's seat, it would be very unsafe if a airbag deployed with a child of his size, yet for a bigger and older user I can see why an airbag in the passenger section would be beneficial.  It does have overhead side airbags from front to back.   You could position your wheelchair in three ways.  Directly next to the driver, in the middle slightly behind the driver, or in the backseat.  
No Front Passenger Seat
I felt like seating options were limited, especially if you have other children or car seats to consider.  And I'm not sure I'd find it comfortable to have one parent forced to ride in the back seat no matter what.  Now there will be the option likely in 6 months to a year where an additional passenger chair can be purchased.  It's not available yet, but they recognize that is a feature that they'll need to explore.   It doesn't have all those family fun features like a fancy stereo or a stereo even with a CD, or an overhead entertainment system. Which is a draw back for us because Noah requires a portable DVD player to stay happy while traveling in the car.   It has cup holders on each side of the door panels, and for the driver the cup holder is directly at the bottom of the seat, where I know I would likely knock it over or kick it, or couldn't reach it comfortably while driving.  I could use the cup holders that are in the dash on the passenger side, but again I'd be reaching.   There is no glove compartment... bummer for me I like to store papers and things. 
Front Dash

It is really nice to drive.  It feels much more like driving my former SUV, a bit higher up than a van.   The power is sufficient and doesn't make you feel like you are driving something that can't get up and go.  Parks nicely and much the same any SUV and van does.   People definitely notice it, there are less than 1000 of them all across the US, so this is not the car for you if you'd like to blend in.  
Back seating

I'm a bit leery of it's trade-in value or potential if you wanted to trade it in on a new or different model down the line.  Obviously there are a lot of factors that play into any trade in for a vehicle, but if you plan to put a lot of miles on it, I gather most dealers wouldn't be interested in buying back or trading a vehicle with 80,000+ miles on it.   Do special needs families even have the capability to really trade one handicapped accessible vehicle for another financially?  Not really sure I know the answer to that.  Most families I gather do the best they can to obtain one, no matter how hard and run it until it won't run anymore.   Financially I assume, it just isn't an option to upgrade or trade vehicles in on a regular basis. 
Bag in the trunk for wheelchair tie downs

I think the MV-1 is a model that is more designed for a person with disabilities that is much older than child age, or an adult spouse, or even for example a disabled Veteran who even has the ability to still drive but needs to do a wheelchair transfer to get into a driver's seat.   Kid-friendly?  I'm thinking overall probably not so much.   And I think the market on the MV-1 will be limited because it is likely not to be very appealing to a family with a child with special needs in a caregiver role.  The MV-1 is perfect for an adult who is able to drive and can transfer to drive.
Floor Tie Downs/Anchors
There are most definitely some features that give the MV-1 an edge over conversion vans.  For instance, it is the only model that is made to be handicapped accessible at the factory.   Very unique in that way, and they are moving in the right direction with that idea.  More models need to be produced from start to finish as a handicapped accessible vehicle.  Because of this, the price is a tad lower than you might find with conversion model vehicles.   When you convert any van to be handicapped accessible, they have to cut the floor out, lower the vehicle, move electrical, re-route the gas... really give the van a complete overhaul to add a conversion kit.   And as soon as you do that, you have just killed any warranty your van may have had.   Because you severely altered it.  It wasn't designed for that purpose.  Not to mention there are only a few states in which conversions are installed resulting many times in the cost of shipping your van to another state for the conversion and then having it shipped back which adds additional costs to the price.  A conversion van doesn't always necessarily have a ramp built into the floor, many of them fold up against the door.  Conversions to a van can cost upwards of around $26,000 onto the base price of any traditional van.  The MV-1's ramp goes directly into the floor which to me is a selling feature.  A typical conversion van also doesn't have the capability to recognize how many feet of clearance you have. 
MV-1 Interior
I think by adding a passenger side seat is going to be a huge necessity for the MV-1 in marketing to families with special needs children.   By nature of the age and situation of our family dynamic we are going to want two parents up front with the children in the back.   We want that same kind of normal feel that we'd have without feeling like we had to change how we sat or positioned ourselves within a vehicle due to our child's special needs. 

It would be a vehicle that would be easy to keep clean with tracking in mud, dirt and debris from wheelchair wheels.  I also like that the MV-1 is soon to come with roadside assistance and if it needs maintenance or service that someone comes to your home picks it up, leaves you with another vehicle to fill your handicapped accessible needs until your car is ready to be returned to you.  You are really on your own if you have a conversion vehicle that needs service, and would have to likely coordinate a time to be without a vehicle that would have a ramp for a certain amount of time. 

The MV-1 sales approach is also very different in the fact that they are really relying on word of mouth to talk about it for sales.  It doesn't really have the market for a sales commercial, in fact many people may not even know of it's existence.   The price tag used is around $40K; the price tag new is around $55K.  There are a variety of different lending options, even including the option to lease.  Yet even at that price, I think they recognize that it's going to be a difficult price point for many with special needs.  We are simply a community of limited resources.  And by nature of the daily price tags that we are faced with it is hard for the average family to move forward with a purchase of that magnitude even with a variety of lending options. 

Overall I think the MV-1 has some decent potential.  Is it going to be the first choice for many special needs families?  I'm thinking maybe not.   They do have plans to expand some of the MV-1's features.  In 2017 they even anticipate making a AWD or 4-Wheel Drive Model.   I think they also need to consider making an upgraded dash, including a more modern stereo, consider a glove compartment, the option for a built in entertainment center since the chairs are one piece and eliminate the ability to strap a portable one to the back of the driver's or passenger seat.  It needs just a touch more to reach a wider market.  But like just about anything you'll find pros and cons, and features that either fit or don't fit individual needs.   At least it's an option, and we certainly need more of those within the special needs community.


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.