Dealership Hires Special Staff To Sell Wheelchair Accessible Car
Wheelchair-bound students helping sell the MV-1, the first factory-assembled handicapped-accessible vehicle in the US; Mahwah dealership just started selling new car
The MV-1, or “Mobility Vehicle 1” is the only vehicle of its kind. Introduced in 2011, the car is the first in the country factory-assembled to accommodate people with disabilities.
Three Ramapo College students, including two in wheelchairs, are tasked with telling all of North Jersey about it.
Mahwah resident Rick DeSilva and his two sons Mike and Rick, Jr. – who own and operate Liberty Hyundai on Route 17 and Liberty Subaru in Emerson – founded a new company, MV-1 of North Jersey, earlier this year. The three started selling the new type of car, which was originally designed as a more accessible taxicab, a few months ago. To market it, the dealership has hired a crack team from Ramapo College.
“When I was in school, I interned on a real-life marketing campaign, so I thought why not call the college and see if I could get some interns to come in for interviews,” Rick DeSilva, the owner and operator of Liberty Hyundai in Mahwah who just said. “I had no idea the candidates they would send over would be in wheelchairs. I was so shocked to see them come in.”
DeSilva hired two of his handicapped applicants – Brian Aceti, who graduated from Ramapo College in May, and Patrick Cua, a rising senior. In addition, he hired Jamie Thomas, a communications major who is helping the team market the car on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
“It looked like something I might want to buy in the future,” Aceti, who has been wheelchair-bound since he was struck with an illness at age 12, said. “It’s got a sportier look than a converted minivan, like something I would want to drive,” the 21-year-old Montville resident said.
Cua, who has been in a wheelchair for only a few years, thanks to the worsening of his limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, said he was “inspired” to apply for the marketing internship with Liberty. “This car could change people’s lives,” the 19-year-old from Glen Rock said.
Together the trio is developing a targeted direct mailer to be sent to families of handicapped, planning a launch event, sending out digital newsletters about it, and setting up demonstrations of the vehicle to local handicapped and rehabilitation groups.
The MV-1 has an ADA-approved ramp that is stored underneath the floor, but can be drawn out or pushed in with the click of a button. The vehicle is designed to promote the easy entry and exit of passengers in wheelchairs, and seating for six, with room for up to two wheelchairs.
The car is built on a Ford drivetrain, and is in production in Indiana, at an old Hummer plant.
The owner of Liberty Hyundai on Route 17 recently became the only licensed MV-1 dealer in northern NJ.
“Before, if you wanted to get your wheelchair into a vehicle, you had to buy a van, and send it out to get custom-converted,” DeSilva said. “This comes this way off of the assembly line.”
DeSilva said he thinks the car will have a big impact in North Jersey, due in no small part to the college interns.
“They have been just phenomenal,” DeSilva said. “Having them work here has really been an eye-opening experience. I never thought to hire interns who were wheelchair-bound, but of course they are the best people for this job. It’s been so great for us, and I think the experience is good for them.”
Learn more about the MV-1 here.