Back on the MAP: Specialty distributor picks up Kuschall

Sunday, January 28, 2007

OAKDALE, Pa. - HME providers who thought they might have seen the last of Invacare's Kuschall custom manual wheelchairs in the United States received a pleasant surprise last week.

MAP Mobility & Access Products, a new specialty importer of mobility products, has signed a deal to become the exclusive distributor of Kuschall chairs in the United States, Invacare announced Jan. 22.

Invacare announced in late December that it planned to discontinue the Kuschall line in the United States. The lightweight custom chairs are popular in Europe but never lived up to Invacare's expectations in the United States where stiff competition, a small niche customer base and a high price point worked against the brand. Nevertheless, when Invacare announced that it planned to discontinue the line in the United States, a number of providers who had invested in Kuschall products became upset, said Brian Ellacott, an Invacare vice president.

"We came up with this as an alternative for customers willing to pay a premium and wait a little longer for the product because it is going to be made in Switzerland," he said.

MAP officially began distributing Kuschall Jan. 22. Invacare plans to work with the company to ensure a smooth transition and will continue to stand behind Kuschall, Ellacott said.

Providers will now pay more for Kuschall products, but exactly how much more won't be known until April 1 when MAP releases new pricing, said Werner Frank, MAP president.

Increased pricing is inevitable, he said. It's more expensive for a distributor to provide a product than it is a manufacturer. Additionally, all products and parts will come from Switzerland. Previously, Invacare manufactured most of is Kuschall chairs intended for the United States in Montreal.

"We will be using higher quality products, and the shipping will be more expensive," Frank said. "But we can produce a chair and have it here in 10 days. We've been doing this for 12 years and know exactly what to do. We know how to get these things here fast."

Frank Mobility Systems, a specialty distributor of mobility equipment since 1995, created the MAP subsidiary this month to distribute custom manual chairs. Kuschall is the company's first product line. Frank Mobility will now focus on distributing power mobility products.