A new kind of car will soon be on the road in South Florida, and there's never been anything like it.
With a little help from The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis president Marc Buoniconti, Miami-based VPG unveiled the first vehicle designed and built from scratch specifically for wheelchair users: the new MV-1.
"It's a proud day for me and, I think, a proud day for the disabled," said a beaming Buoniconti, who helped design it, from MV-1's passenger side. "Finally, a company has built a vehicle for them."
"We're a new American car company, and this a historic day," proclaimed VPG CEO Dave Schembri. The MV-1 was unveiled right outside of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, but it was manufactured in Indiana.
Schembri said the design of the vehicle was built around the specifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was enacted more than twenty years ago. Prior to the MV-1, regularly purchased vehicles -- usually vans -- had to be converted for wheelchair accessibility.
A new van plus the cost of conversion meant a price tag of about $55,000, Schembri said, but the MV-1 is thousands less: the base model is $39,950, and the deluxe model is an extra $2,000.
The car, which looks like an SUV, has a built in ramp and extra headroom for easy entry and exit.
Miami resident John Beauregard thinks the new car is a great idea. One of 4 million Americans in a wheelchair after he was paralyzed in a construction accident 27 years ago, he said it marks a welcome change in attitude from automakers.
"Twenty years ago, they were [saying], 'You want a vehicle? Why?'" he said.
So far, there are 50 dealerships across the country and five in Florida who will sell the MV-1, including Vera-Williamson in Pembroke Pines.
Demand is high, even the day the car first went public: there's already a waiting list in South Florida, and two cab companies in Connecticut have ordered 140 MV-1s to use as taxis.