Wheelinit keeps it simple
FORT WORTH, Texas – Lessons learned had everything to do with the stripped-down, rugged and reliable van that the recently-launched Wheelinit sells to wheelchair users, says Managing Member Micah Mitchell. Here’s what he and Business Development Director Bo Dennett had to say about creating the Wheelinit van and how it fits into the mobility van market.
HME News: Wheelinit’s parent company rented wheelchair accessible vans for 15 years. How did that experience lead you to build the vans Wheelinit now sells?
Micah Mitchell: We started to realize a lot of the wheelchair-accessible vans had similar maintenance issues, and the majority of our rental customers were not drivers. They were wheelchair users who had family members drive them. Folks who can transfer can normally transfer in and out of a normal vehicle. Their issue is getting the chair in and out, and there are lots of solutions to help with that. Those wheelchair users who cannot transfer obviously need a special van. From our experience, a lot of those customers who cannot transfer also do not drive. So, a lot of those neat features are not needed.
HME: What are the benefits of paring down the vans, eliminating those extra features?
Mitchell: We designed a van that’s going to work for the largest percentage of users—those who aren’t going to get those features they don’t need and which are also the most likely to need repairs. That lowered the cost of the vehicles on the front end, and it minimized the downtime of the vehicles because there are fewer repairs. We bought vans with no proprietary parts. In developing our van for the market, we didn’t want service to be a profit center.
Bo Dennett: When there is a power ramp and a power door, none of the mechanisms that are required to power them are ever tied into the electronics of the van, so if one goes down, it doesn’t affect the others. If the power module on the ramp should go bad, the individual or family member can, with a switch, convert that ramp to a manual functioning ramp and the vehicle will continue to perform.
HME: You’re selling, in part, through HME providers. What’s the benefit for them?
Mitchell: It’s a new space for a lot of dealers. I think the dealers appreciate moving away from managed care and Medicare. I think they can appreciate that they don’t have to have as much back-office work to sell vans as they do for wheelchairs.
HME: You said the market is growing. How does Wheelinit fit in?
Mitchell: We have online pricing coupled with the ability for the user to test the vehicle. We are the first and only company that’s wholly owned and managed by ATPs. We have a low cost distribution model and involve industry experts who understand the progressive conditions and other conditions our customers have.