Raising the bar

Friday, January 31, 2003

Bruno buys Swedish lifts
OCONOMOWOC, Wisc. - Bruno Independent Living Aids, a lift and mobility manufacturer that’s made just one other acquisition in its 18-year history, has bought a controlling interest in a Swedish vehicle adaptation company, Autoadapt, whose products it’s been selling in North America for the past three years.

Autoadapt makes Turning Automotive Seating (TAS), a vehicle lift system that lowers a seated passenger from a van or truck and mitigates the height of the step down. Alternatively, the seat slides can slide over a carriage onto the framework of a transport wheelchair.

Autoadapt generated about $10 million in sales last year. Bruno’s sales of vehicle lifts, stair lifts, power chairs and scooters reached about $50 million last year. Bruno CEO Mike Bruno expects combined sales to top $70 million next year, and $100 million in three years.

With plants in Boras and Stenkullen, Swenden, the Autoadapt acquisition increases Bruno’s manufacturing floorspace from 160,000 to 240,000 square feet. Autoadapt’s 80 employees will join Brunon’s staff of 300.

“Over the last five years, we’ve averaged 25% growth per year, not through acquisitions but internal growth,” said Jack Sheehan, vice president of sales and marketing at Bruno.

That may change. Once considered a possible candidate for acquisition itself, Bruno now looks to be on the verge of more external growth. In the release heralding the Autoadapt acquisition, Bruno states that it’s looking for more opportunities in the future.

Widely recognized as the largest manufacturer of vehicle lifts and stairway lifts, Bruno sells product into a market that some consider to be growing by leaps and bounds as consumers gradually learn that owning a power chair or scooter doesn’t necessarily tether them to the house.

“Adaptive automobile equipment allows people to continue to lead active lives, and they’re willing to spend the money it takes to be mobile,” said Rick Atkins of Mobility Plus in Oklahoma City, Ok.

Atkins , who sells scooters and power chairs and installs some Bruno lifts, doesn’t have figures to quantify the number of people who purchase scooters or power chairs and subsequently decide to adapt a vehicle, but he definitely has a lot of follow-up customers.

“Once people get used to using a scooter or power chair to get around the house and outside, they want to get in the car and go places, but most vehicles need adaptive equipment,” he said. HME