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Big ambitions in the European powerchair market

In the high-end powerchair market, Quantum Rehab is still relatively young in the UK market in comparison to some players. In America however, the company is the market leader in complex powerchairs and has set its sights on achieving the same level of success in the UK and Europe. THIIS caught up with Kevin Atkins, Senior Sales Manager at Quantum Rehab, to discover how innovation and persistence are helping the company to achieve sustained growth and increasing market share in the competitive powerchair sector.

Exporting domestic success

Formed by American mobility giant Pride Mobility back in 2000 to focus on addressing advanced rehab needs, Quantum Rehab’s solutions incorporate various components to create powerchairs capable of meeting individuals’ complex needs.

Currently the market leader in its domestic market of the USA, the company has in recent years set its sights on expanding its presence in Europe, focusing on releasing new innovations to compete against established players in the market.

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“As a company, we are fuelled by innovation, which has led to Quantum being the number one supplier of powerchairs in America,” said Kevin.

“We are now looking to replicate that success in Europe, across our subsidiaries in Holland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and of course, the UK. We are years behind some of the other manufacturers, who have been in these markets for more than 30 years, and while Quantum launched in 2000, it has only really started to focus on Europe in the last three to four years.”

“We realised however that what sells in America will not always be right for the UK and European markets.” Kevin Atkins

Joining Quantum Rehab in 2011 as an area sales manager in the South West before becoming the brand’s senior sales manager, Kevin Atkins has witnessed and played a key role in the company’s UK growth, now overseeing a team of five area sales managers across the UK, as well as being involved in product development, crash testing, and regular conference calls with the US headquarters.

Transatlantic communications

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Speaking with Kevin about how the company has changed over the years, he told THIIS that one of the biggest shifts in Quantum Rehab has been its approach to the UK and European markets.

“Years ago, there was not the same level of communication between the USA and the UK teams, so it was often the case that products were designed and made for the American market before being passed over to the UK to be sold,” explained Kevin.

“We realised however that what sells in America will not always be right for the UK and European markets.”

Now aiming to address more directly the needs of its customers across its subsidiaries in Europe, Kevin highlighted how communication globally has improved within Quantum.

“I never used to have direct communication with America, however, I now have direct access to our Research and Development team in the USA, so we are able to relay a lot more information and feedback to help facilitate new products and innovations,” he said.

“This has really been the case with our new mid-wheel drive powerchair that we are launching soon. A lot of our feedback from the team in the UK and Europe has played a big part in creating it.”

Smaller design to achieve big growth

In September 2018, Quantum Rehab released its latest mid-wheel drive Edge 3 powerchair, which it says has really taken off this year. Building on the rising success of the chair, the company also unveiled a sneak preview of a new, compact mid-wheel drive chair at this year’s Naidex that Kevin says will be a game-changer in the market.

“It is something our customers have been asking for. They tell us that they love the Quantum range but they want a slightly smaller version for indoor properties, so the US team has responded and we have something very special to bring to the market later this year,” stressed Kevin.

“We know that this smaller, mid-wheel drive segment is a fantastic market with big growth opportunities to tap into and so we are planning to enter it with something that is market-leading.”

The new chair will boast a narrower wheelbase; 50amp batteries for enhanced range; and a selection of wheel options including 12-inch & 14-inch drive wheels, as well as five-inch and six-inch castors in the front for a tighter turning radius.

In addition, it will incorporate Quantum’s unique iLevel function, allowing individuals to drive fully elevated at walking speed, alongside options such as 50-degrees of tilt and a lower seat to floor height.

“It took eight years for Quantum to become the number one supplier of high-end powerchairs in America and our ambition is to do the same in Europe.” Kevin Atkins

With a range of distinct, useful features that are not found on competitors’ products, Quantum Rehab has big hopes for its upcoming release, helping to cement its position as a key player in this sector of the powerchair market.

“We said that if we were really going to compete in this part of the market, then we needed more than just a product that is the same as what is already on offer – we wanted something that looks better, drives better and has better features and I’m confident we have achieved that,” underlined Kevin.

“The price point will also be really competitive to others that are on the market for both retail and the NHS as well, so I see this being a real game-changer for us, particularly in terms of volume, because in my opinion, it will be better than anything comparable on the market today.”

Investing in innovation

Having only launched its enhanced 4.5mph iLevel feature and new Edge 3 chair less than 12 months ago and with more products and features on the way, the pace of Quantum’s innovation is impressive and one of its core components behind its growth.

“This has definitely been the most innovative period at Quantum since I joined the company and I would go as far as to say that no other manufacturer is innovating at the same rate as us at the moment,” claimed Kevin.

“Our CEO is really focused on bringing innovative solutions to the market and so a lot of time and effort goes into research and development, which is really exciting as there is so much in the pipeline that I can’t talk about but know will really turn heads when it launches.”

Interestingly, the company’s innovations have not just focused on enhancing the ride performance of the chair but also on enabling dealers to provide greater aftersales care via its new Interactive Assist app.

“This is a free feature that allows dealers to connect with the chair live and see what is going on live. It gives the end-user peace of mind and allows the dealer to give the level of customer service that customers need,” noted Kevin.

Available on the Q-Logic 3 control system, the app enables a real-time connection from a powerchair’s electronics to a dealer’s programming station, providing a technician with full system and diagnostic information, alongside useful tools including a real-time mirror image of the chair’s LCD display.

“You have similar functions on premium cars nowadays, so it’s great for all parties involved. Dealers can cut down on the cost of money and time spent sending engineers to diagnose a problem and users get any issues resolved more quickly,” he added.

A good problem to have

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Kevin Atkins, Senior Quantum Sales Manager

With so much innovation, one of the challenges according to Kevin can be ensuring dealers are aware of all the new features and products from Quantum on the market.

“It can be tough keeping up with all the innovation and trying to keep our retailers and the NHS informed about all the new innovations we are introducing,” he commented.

“We are working on so much and there are so many good things coming through, it means we are always telling our customers something new. Trying to make sure that they are up to date and fully informed isn’t easy and means our team has to work hard to ensure we know all the innovation inside and out.

“It is a great problem to have though.”

In addition to the company’s new Edge 3 powerchair, upcoming compact mid-wheel drive chair, augmented iLevel function and Interactive Assist app, Kevin mentioned the company has also used high-spec shock absorbers in its chairs commonly used in motocross.

“It is a great feeling being able to go in to see a customer and always have something new to talk about,” continued Kevin.

“Going in and seeing a dealer with nothing new to tell them can be quite awkward.”

Developing the dealer network

Having formerly worked on the retail side of the market for a number of years at Cornwall Mobility before joining Quantum, Kevin says it has taken consistent hard work to build Quantum’s dealer network in the UK.

“A lot of dealers, even the more stalwart dealers in particular that have been working with other manufacturers for years and have not been particularly interested in working with us, are now coming on board,” commented Kevin.

Discussing why the company’s dealer network is growing, the Senior Sales Manager explained it is down to two key factors – a commitment to innovation and gentle persistence.

“I think dealers can see we are really dedicated to genuine innovation,” stated Kevin.

“The key things I’ve found, being on both sides of the coin, is that dealers want products that look aesthetically pleasing, have extensive elements so dealers can really meet their customers’ needs, and get genuine support from their suppliers.

“We try to tick all these boxes and because we aren’t the biggest player in the market, we always appreciate any business we get from our dealers. It really is never taken for granted and I think our dealers know and appreciate this.”

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Alongside having the right product and aftersales service, Kevin highlighted that persevering when doors were shut has paid dividends in the long-run.

“We do not give up – we very easily could have stopped trying to approach dealers that after two years continued to show us the door but instead, we continued keeping in contact and building relationships and it is paying off now.”

The ideal dealer

In its bid to become the major high-end powerchair supplier in Europe, the company is continuously building, refining and developing its network of dealers.

“We know that this smaller, mid-wheel drive segment is a fantastic market with big growth opportunities to tap into” Kevin Atkins

Discussing what makes a great dealer, Kevin said: “Dealers that have the same sort of ethics as we do and are focused purely on doing the right thing for the customer. It really is not just about selling the product and making money but making sure the correct assessment is carried out, the provision is correct and aftersales care is exceptional.

“If Quantum isn’t the right chair for a customer needs, do not sell them a Quantum. For me, it is all about the customer’s needs and making sure the right chair is going to the right person.”

Also, the passionate Sales Manager stressed the importance of aftersales care.

“If a customer has a problem, we want to make sure they deal with it in the right way,” he continued.

“We’ve had big companies that sell a lot of powerchairs come and tell us that they want to sell Quantum but we have not let them have our products. We know that they may sell hundreds a year but the way they sell is not ethical and it will do the brand more harm than good in the long-run.”

In addition, Kevin explained his process for working with dealers that are interested in selling Quantum chairs but require more knowledge on the company’s complex solutions.

“We work hard to try and train dealers who want to offer the best customer service by doing joint assessments and in-depth training, as well as invest in features like the Interactive Assist and expert staff, like our Seating and Positioning expert, to ensure they can offer the best service possible,” he elaborated.

“We’ll work with dealers continuously to help them reach a point where they feel confident to begin working on their own to sell our products. We usually start off with the lower-end products, help dealers build their confidence and knowledge, then slowly introduce the mid-range and then higher spec ranges.”

Continued expansion

Quantum Rehab imageWith year-on-year growth, an engaged sales team and more innovations inbound, Kevin is confident the company will be able to reach the same level of market share in the UK and Europe as it enjoys across the pond.

“There is still a lot of catching up to do but our CEO knows that and is really putting the effort and backing to make it a reality. It took eight years for Quantum to become the number one supplier of high-end powerchairs in America and our ambition is to do the same in Europe,” finished Kevin.

“It also helps that we are still a privately held company, rather than a consortium or holding company, which means decisions stop with one person, allowing us to act decisively. I love what Quantum is doing and I’m really looking forward to seeing us achieve our ambition.”

Why has Quantum got the edge in the bariatric market?

With its new, compact mid-wheel powerchair launching later this year, Quantum Rehab already enjoys big success in the bariatric segment of the market which has helped the company penetrate the NHS, according to Kevin.

“Our heavy-duty chairs like the Q6 Edge HD are definitely one of our most successful chairs on the NHS side of things,” he commented.

“Other companies in the industry do not offer a better alternative because Quantum has a particularly expertise in this area. As an American company, it has always developed bariatric options for the American market, whereas some of the European-based or -focused companies have not.

“Now we are seeing larger people in the UK and as a company, we have solutions on the market which is super reliable and have been extensively tested and proven in one of the largest markets in the world.”

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