Drive Autofold Powerchair
The Autofold Powerchair folds and unfolds effortlessly to a compact size

Faced with increasing demand for powered mobility products, Drive DeVilbiss has been busy launching new products and coming up with innovative updates on existing models over the past year. THIIS meets Dallas Newsham, International Category Manager – Powered Mobility at Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare, to find out more about the firm’s latest innovations…

Dallas Newham
Dallas Newsham, International Category Manager – Powered Mobility at Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare

The last two years have been incredibly busy for Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare in the UK, across its European international businesses and globally. As a manufacturer and distributor of a wide range of healthcare products, the business responded to a huge increase in demand for vital medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic by ramping up production at its Halifax, Staffordshire and Leicestershire manufacturing sites.

During the height of the COVID pandemic, there was a slowdown in the sales of many mobility devices, simply because people were encouraged to stay indoors and not travel; during this time however Drive DeVilbiss invested heavily in developing new and innovative products, especially in the powered mobility category.

THIIS chats to Dallas Newsham, International Category Manager – Powered Mobility at Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare to find out more…

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What particular project has stood out for you during your time at Drive?

Whilst I have only been with Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare for just over 12 months it has been a whirlwind of excitement and I have worked on a number of key projects within the powered mobility range.

“For me, new product development of the Autofold Powerchair has stood out the most, working closely with the R&D team to ensure specifications and features align with our customers’ needs to ensure user experience is positively enhanced.”

Can you explain more about how the Autofold Powerchair was developed?

Traditionally, powerchairs have been large and heavy; creating issues for users when needing to transport in a vehicle. New developments in this product group mean we are seeing more versatile and innovative options available to suit independent lifestyles; lighter materials, folding solutions and products that are easy to disassemble for transporting.

The Autofold Powerchair is a great example of these new developments; it folds and unfolds effortlessly to a compact size using its remote control, fitting easily into most car boots and is lightweight at only 28kgs (excluding batteries).

Additional user feedback identified a need for improved comfort, again this has been a consideration when designing the Autofold; we have included shock absorbing front suspension for a smoother ride, foam heel covers and a perforated, padded backrest to better support users and improve overall comfort.

It also includes an increased maximum user weight capacity of 150kg, which is particularly impressive for such a lightweight, compact powerchair.

The appearance of the powerchair was also highlighted as being important to users, and we really feel that we have developed a chair with a fresh attractive design, including a striking black finish frame and stylish black and silver wheel hubs.”

Drive Autofold Elite
The Autofold Elite Mobility Scooter has been launched by Drive DeVilbiss

What was the response you received from retailers?

“The response from our retailers has been incredibly positive, we have received a great deal of enthusiasm for the newly developed features. They’ve told us all about the great feedback when demonstrating the remote folding function, with their customers being amazed as to how easy it is to use. It’s wonderful to hear that these developments will really make a difference to user’s independence.”

Last year, Drive announced the launch of the Autofold Elite Scooter, what inspired this?

Following on from the success of the Auto Folding Scooter launched in 2018, we identified a gap in the market for a premium model that would offer additional features and benefits.

Inspired by our customer feedback, we worked closely with the R&D team to create a “hitlist” of fantastic new features. Customers told us that they would really like to see front and rear suspension, LED headlight, Delta tillerbar, a USP port and a modern appearance.”

What kind of response have you had about the scooter?

“We were delighted with the response to the product launch; retailer feedback was fantastic, and we soon struggled to keep up with the initial demand. This was particularly pleasing as we were unsure how keen end users would be to get out and about whilst in the middle of the pandemic. Despite the uncertainties at that time, it went on to be one of the most successful powered mobility product launches in recent years across the industry.”

What are the powered mobility bestsellers for Drive?

“The Folding Powerchair was a fantastic seller for Drive and we are hoping the new Autofold model with its many new features will experience even more success.

“The Autofold Elite scooter has most definitely been the bestseller of 2021, followed by other favourites such as the standard Auto Folding and Dual Wheel scooters.
“For our 8mph road legal range the Sport Rider, with its motorcycle-style design continues to be a firm favourite with our customers.”

Can you tell us more about what’s coming soon in the powerchair and scooter category from Drive? 

“There are many new projects on going, however there is one product that we are particularly excited about. This new innovative premium model will bring something completely new and unique to enhance the Drive powered mobility range. I don’t want to say too much at the moment, all I can say is watch this space!”

How has Drive managed to navigate the challenges over issues such as global shipping and Brexit?

“The last 18 months has been challenging for all in the industry, in order to mitigate delays we are working closely with our partners to increase stock of goods in the UK, despite the global issues in supply chain, rapidly rising costs and increased complexities at our borders due to the UK’s exit from the EU.

Our Global Supply Chain teams work to minimise delays; we have increased products and parts on order and adopted a multi-channel logistics approach to ensure a regular flow of stock to maintain inventory levels where we can. Ensuring regular communication with our customers regarding their orders and lead times has also been key during this time.”

Drive at Trade Days

Do you think training should be given to retailers about the use of powered mobility products?

“It is very important that retailers are trained to use the products that they are selling. We offer various types of training to our retailers to ensure that they can use the product safely and understand all the key features, so in turn they can confidently demonstrate and train their customers.

“We offer face-to-face and virtual training options, and have a range of supporting documents including comprehensive user manuals, quick start guides, spare parts lists etc.”

With fewer Covid restrictions this year, how is Drive looking to engage with mobility retailers during 2022?

Our teams are able to safely visit customers face-to-face on a more regular basis now, while always following the latest government guidelines. Whilst we have been able to use and adapt with technology to contact customers, this year we will be super excited about visiting customers more often as well as attending more exhibitions and seeing retailers there too.

Of course, for customers who are not able to or who are less comfortable with face-to-face interaction our virtual routes remain open and we will continue to have our internal account managers alongside a national field sales team for local service and support.

Our commercial team pride themselves on providing the best support for our retailers with a skilled technical team behind them to offer a gold standard service.”

Drive Autofold

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