2011 Sienna Toyota Auto Access Seat
By Rory Jurnecka

Alongside its Dedicated Hybrid Concept, Toyota is showing a new optional feature for its all-new 2011 Sienna minivan that caters to the elderly and the disabled. Dubbed the Auto Access Seat, the feature lifts passengers into the Sienna that would otherwise have a difficult time climbing inside.

The special seat is a factory-installed option that Toyota says was aimed at making life easier for elderly people with walking disabilities, disabled veterans, and children with disabilities, along with the caregivers of such people. The Auto Access Seat offers one-touch operation via remote control that raises a passenger into the Sienna from as low as 19 in. off the ground. The seat is capable of rotating 90 degrees as well as 24 degrees of reclining ability. Built-in safety features include functions to prevent the seat from operating when the Sienna's sliding door is not completely open and allow for manual seat retraction in the event of a power failure.

The Auto Access Seat features a tether system that allows child safety seats to be used and the seat itself utilizes a link-driven operating mechanism that Toyota says is more durable and quite than comparable chain-driven systems. The seat fabric matches the interior of the Sienna and is treated with a stain- and odor-resistant process. The seat can carry a passenger of up to 330 lbs and the seat can be serviced by Toyota dealers with a comprehensive three-year, 36,000-mile warranty. Toyota says it is the first automaker to offer such a mobility feature as a factory option, allowing customers to purchase a vehicle that caters to special needs without turning to the aftermarket.

Toyota did, however, turn to the aftermarket for another specialty vehicle, the Sienna Rampvan. Converted by mobility solutions provider BraunAbility, the Sienna Rampvan features an automatic side-entry ramp, an enlarged sliding door area, and a lowered floor to allow wheelchair users to gain access to the Sienna.

The Auto Access Seat will be available at the 2011 Sienna's showroom launch next month, while the Sienna Rampvan will become available for order in the second quarter of 2010. Pricing information has not yet been supplied.

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Source: Toyota