Vehicle Production Group bypassed such van conversions when it designed its MV-1 from the ground up. But Walsh, who stepped in last year as CEO, says the company missed the mark on how to retail the MV-1 when the van launched in 2010.
Vehicle Production Group originally set out to put franchises into auto dealerships -- just as a Mazda franchise might be added.
Walsh agrees that "somebody like an established Ford dealer who understands service and quality" would be an ideal candidate to become an MV-1 retailer. But he favors a kind of "subsidiary" approach, in which the mobility business has dedicated MV-1 sales and service operations.
Walsh, who came from a management background working with buses and shuttles used for riders with disabilities, says the company will work closely with the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, a nonprofit organization created to improve transportation options of people with disabilities.
"We're retooling," says Walsh, who also moved the company's headquarters from Miami to suburban Detroit. "We're not a car manufacturer. We're in the mobility business. Our previous management believed we could sell our products like traditional car dealers, and that's not how it works.
"You really have to be involved in the mobility community," he says. "You have to be able to understand and think like someone who has a disability.
"One of the first questions I asked when I came here was, 'How many employees do we have who are in wheelchairs?' They said, 'Why does that matter?' I said, 'Because they teach you the market.' We had a company brochure that showed a picture of someone riding a bicycle."
Walsh also plans to expand the company's product line next year to include a mainstream vehicle. In mid-2014, Vehicle Production Group will launch a cargo van version of the MV-1. The new model will use the wheelchair van's side entry and extendible ramp to attract commercial users and delivery fleet sales.
The van is also changing to a more fuel-efficient engine, replacing its Ford 4.2-liter V-8 with a Ford 3.7-liter EcoBoost V-6.
Vehicle Production Group sold 2,500 vehicles last year. Walsh forecasts about 4,000 this year and 6,000 in 2014.
He is not alone is planning to expand his company's product line.
Braun President Nick Gutwein says he is pursuing different product platforms to add to his offerings. Without unveiling details, he refers to upcoming additions as "nonminivan. A lot of people just don't want to be in a minivan anymore."
But Gutwein points to a challenge: Unlike Vehicle Production Group -- which designs its own vehicle and has it built by AM General -- Braun and Vantage Mobility retrofit mass-market vans, limiting their ability to change the vehicles. General Motors and Ford also make their large vans available, and some smaller shops use the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van for wheelchair-accessible vehicles. But those are converted in low volumes.