The wheelchair-accessible vehicle market is a small but significant niche, and for an estimated 1.6 million Americans who use wheelchairs outside of institutions, it's an important one. The Federal Transit Administration's ruling overturning a prior waiver on "buy American" rules for transit agencies purchases stands to benefit Allen Park, Michigan-based Vehicle Production Group, the maker of the MV-1, which the company claims is the first vehicle purpose-built from the ground up for wheelchair users.
But Chrysler objected to the ruling, saying it will give VPG a virtual monopoly on small buses and shuttles purchased by local transit agencies for transportation of disabled people, Bloomberg reported. The agency dismissed Chrysler's objection by saying "the current waiver has served to the near-exclusive benefit of Chrysler since 2010." The buy American provision was waived in 2010 because no suitable vehicles for the transportation of disabled people were manufactured in the U.S. at the time with sufficient domestic content.
Some of the other companies objecting to the agency's ruling include Thor Industries and the privately held Braun Corp, which convert Chrysler vans originally manufactured in Canada. VPG manufactured approximately 2500 MV-1s in 2012, and expects that number to increase to 6000 in 2013, following the agency's ruling.
The MV-1 is a rear-drive, body-on-frame vehicle powered by a Ford 4.6-liter, SOHC V-8 engine, although it's expected to eventually use Ford's 3.7-liter, DOHC V-6, as Ford has discontinued production of the 4.6. It is built in the former AM General plant that made the Hummer H1 and H2 in Mishawaka, Indiana.