SOUTH BEND, Ind. — AM General earned a name for itself building vehicles for other people: the original Humvee for military customers and the Hummer H2 SUV for General Motors.
Now, AM General is trying to make a reputation as an original equipment manufacturer in its own right, building and selling the Mobility Ventures MV-1 wheelchair accessible van, which bears more than a passing resemblance to a London black taxi.
As a contract manufacturer, AM General built the MV-1 for a Detroit-area company called Vehicle Production Group in 2011 and 2012. But production stopped when VPG went out of business after failing to meet terms of a $50 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.
AM General bought the company's assets and purchased the DOE loan, restarting production last summer at its plant in Mishawaka, Ind.
AM General sees a business opportunity in the potential for aging baby boomers to increasingly need the use of wheelchairs.
"We have a growing population, an aging population with increasing mobility challenges that requires an appropriate vehicle that simply has not been in the marketplace yet. We have a product that no one else has," says Howard Glaser, president of AM General's Commercial Business unit. He joined AM General this year as part of a new team to build nonmilitary business.