Manufacturer of the coachbuilt independence vehicle wins Queen’s Award for Enterprise

Coachbuilt GB Limited, based at Atherstone [an SME based in Warwickshire], has won a rare Queen’s Award for Enterprise for outstanding achievement for the innovation of coachbuilt independence vehicles.

The company designs and manufactures coachbuilt independence vehicles.  The vehicles enable individual wheelchair users to take their personal healthcare equipment and access needs ‘on the road’ with them, therefore promoting accessible travel and an inclusive lifestyle.  This eliminates their reliance on general disabled facilities which are “one size fits all” and crucially not designed to meet their individual mobility needs.  Coachbuilt GB Ltd is the only company in the UK to address this market.

The product empowers wheelchair users to pursue hobbies, visit friends and family, attend events, enjoy holidays and be an active member of society.  They are safe in the knowledge that all their personal care equipment is to hand.

Coachbuilt independence vehicles retail from £55,000 and are created from a motorhome base.

“One of our key goals is to make Britain one of the most accessible places to live, travel and visit,” said Kate Birch, Commercial Director. “We are passionate about promoting confidence in accessible travel, whatever the individual’s ability.  This award recognises our innovation, which ultimately provides life-changing freedom and independence.”

Currently located in Atherstone, Warwickshire, the company will very soon move to a new, larger factory in nearby Nuneaton.  It plans to further develop its British and export markets.

About Coachbuilt GB Ltd

Founded in 2009, the company is owned by Jeff Bull and managed by Jeff Bull, CEO and Kate Birch, Commercial Director.  Jeff has extensive experience in the automotive manufacturing and caravan industries.  Turnover has grown at an average of 200% per year over the last five years.  

It is the only UK based company specialising in the design and manufacture of independence vehicles both new and pre-owned.

About the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise

First awarded in 1966, the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the highest official UK awards for British businesses and are awarded annually, after a rigorous assessment process.  This year only 57 companies nationwide have received an award in the innovation category.

Why specialist independence vehicles are needed

Disabled and wheelchair users each have unique requirements.  For example, some can only move to the left, some to the right, some can only push on grab rails, others can only pull, some are fit and young, others elderly and frail, some are 4’0” tall, others 6’5”, some need hoists, some need shower tables etc. To add to these variations their wheelchairs range greatly in size, turning circle and complexity dependent on their user’s individual physicality and disability.

When in their own home a wheelchair user has all the facilities and equipment they need around them.  These things are close at hand and designed around their own needs.  But once they leave the house they are reliant on ‘standard disabled’ facilities in pubs, shopping centres, service stations and public buildings.

These are some of the difficulties:

  • Public disabled toilets to British Standard (BS8300) are designed to cover a broad range of abilities but they are still ‘one size fits all’ facilities and can vary greatly in layout adding to the uncertainty of the suitability of any one toilet.
  • Hotels have the same potential issues with disabled toilets, but also have many other potential issues; beds are often too high for transfer, no specialist transfer equipment, poor wheelchair access around beds or through doors, steps in corridors or outside, often a long distance to the car parks, there may be hazards on the way like gravel paths or steep hills.
  • Private houses are potentially very difficult as most are not disabled friendly; they can have steps, no access to toilets, narrow doors and too little space for manoeuvering wheelchairs.
  • When travelling there are many other considerations.  Some wheelchair users need to rest, some need temperature control, others need oxygen.

As a result most wheelchair users have had bad experiences, so they rarely go out because it is just too difficult or too uncertain.

Jeff Bull researched all this and discovered that standard options of public transport or adapted ‘motobility’ style cars and vans only offered basic transport and did not meet all the actual needs of a travelling wheelchair user.   What wheelchair users really needed was the ability to take and use their own specific healthcare equipment with them whenever and wherever they go. That is why Coachbuilt GB developed the new ‘independence vehicle’ as none previously existed.