VMI, a leader in the manufacture and distribution of wheelchair accessible minivans, was awarded a patent for an innovative rear suspension on a wheelchair minivan from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This invention when applied to a lowered floor Honda Odyssey or Chrysler Town & Country minivan is helping physically challenged consumers gain additional freedom and independence.
“VMI has manufactured and sold more Honda Odyssey wheelchair conversions by several thousand units than anyone in the world,” said Doug Eaton, president of VMI. “We’re proud that this patented design for the rear suspension of the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Town & Country is helping people gain back their driving independence.”
The inventors, Neil O’Leary and Mike Schmidt, both long time VMI engineers, developed this technology in the early stages of converting the Honda Odyssey to a lowered floor ramp, wheelchair accessible vehicle. When O’Leary and Schmidt came across a series of competing consumer requirements, including ride and handling, interior room, cost and ride height, they were not deterred. The outcome is a wheelchair van that maintains OEM suspension kinematics, has similar ride and handling characteristics of an unconverted Odyssey and has maximum wheelchair maneuvering room. The invention has since been applied to the Chrysler Town & Country.
The provisional application was filed in 2007 and the final application filed in 2008. As of Nov. 23, 2010, U.S. patent number 7,837,303 is marked on the rear suspension of all VMI Honda Odysseys per USPTO regulation. The patent also excludes others from manufacturing, distributing, building, selling or using the product without permission from VMI.
“We encourage our team’s creative thinking to provide the mobility market with great products at fair prices,” noted Ted Larson, VMI vice president of engineering. “Mike Schmidt and Neil O’Leary represent the caliber of both our people and the products they build.”
“Fair competition in the marketplace helps foster innovation, which ultimately benefits consumers,” added Eaton. “One of the reasons we support fair competition is the tremendous engineering and intellectual capital poured into every product. This patent demonstrates the value of that completion for everyone who needs a wheelchair van.”