Takin' care of business

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

PHOENIX - Arizona Mobility Products watched about 100 wheelchair-accessible minivans and full-sized conversion vans drive off its lot in 2006, more than twice the number in 2005.
President Mark Roberts chalks up AMP's successful year to the baby boomer generation's desire to "keep moving" and the company's ability to treat people with respect.
"In the auto industry, everyone's worried about giving customers prices and then the customers going elsewhere, and it becomes a Chinese auction," he said. "If you take care of people first, the money comes second."
AMP, the retail arm of Vantage Mobility International, is technically in its first year of operation. VMI, in addition to providing converted vans to some 700 dealers, has always sold some vans direct locally--it sold about 45 in 2005--but AMP is its attempt to run that side business "like a real business," Roberts said.
An increase in used van sales has also helped AMP boost sales. VMI buys used vans at auctions, converts them and provides them to AMP and other dealers. In 2006, used vans made up about 40% of AMP's sales, Roberts said.
"It used to be that only 5% of people were buying used vans," he said. "By introducing more used vans, we've opened up this option to more people--people who felt they could never afford it."
Roberts pointed out that AMP currently has a used van on its lot that costs only $2,500. But most of the 220 vans it has in stock range in price from $19,000 (trade-in) to $30,000 (used with new conversion) to $50,000 (new).
A converted van may include anything from a lowered floor and a raised roof, which allow a person in a wheelchair to get in and out easier, to assisted steering, which allows a person without use of his legs to drive.
When describing the reasons for AMP's success, however, Roberts continually returns to the company's community spirit. It publishes a newsletter whose "Community Spotlight" section shares non-AMP products and services with customers. Recently, when a customer couldn't afford to buy a van, the company helped him find a job.
"I think if you really want to win, you have to be part of the community," Roberts said.