- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

When General Motors recently rolled out its new 2004 lineup for D.C.-area auto writers to scrutinize, there was one new offering that will ensure maximum mobility for countless disabled Americans.

Unlike most reports of new models, this review is best told not from the driver’s seat — but from the right-hand second-row passenger seat.

GM’s Sit-N-Lift power seat looks like a conventional rear seat, but it sure doesn’t operate like one. The innovative seat makes it much easier to enter and exit GM’s Chevrolet Venture, Pontiac Montana and Oldsmobile Silhouette minivans.

It drew my attention because it seemed to be hovering just above ground level outside the sliding door of a Montana minivan.

There it was, facing outward, begging to be sat in — sort of like an inviting recliner extended from the side of the van.

A touch of a button on the handheld remote control rotates the seat gently around until it is inside the van, facing forward,.

And that’s just the point.

“People can roll up to the seat in their wheelchairs or motorized scooters and the seat makes getting into the van a breeze,” said Gary Talbot, GM’s manager of mobility engineering.

“With approximately 80 million people over the age of 50 and more than 50 million Americans with some form of disability, we think the Sit-N-Lift seat can help a lot of people stay on the move,” Mr. Talbot said.

“As people age, things can become more difficult. Arthritis, a sore back, or physical needs necessitate that vehicles have to be more flexible and accommodating.

A feature like Sit-N-Lift, with its 300-pound lift capacity, allows a wide range of people to be part of the vehicle experience, able to get out and about and stay as independent as possible,” Mr. Talbot said.

For caregivers, the Sit-N-Lift power seat is not only a convenience, it’s also a feature that affords them safety while assisting or lifting their passenger into the vehicle.

The fortysomething Mr. Talbot has been confined to a wheelchair for 23 years by an automobile accident left him a T-12 paraplegic.

“Because much of our independence is based on our transportation abilities, it is GM’s goal to make sure as many people as possible can keep that freedom, and to make that process as seamless as possible,” Mr. Talbot said.

Unlike existing aftermarket systems, the articulating seat has been especially designed and engineered by GM so that no modifications have to be made to the van. “There are no sharp edges or protruding modifications.

The van looks like any other GM minivan as the seat system is transparent to those without mobility issues,” Mr. Talbot said.

Sharp edges and protruding objects are a problem because in many instances those with disabilities have little or no feeling in their legs.

Their legs can be cut or bruised because there is no pain when they bump into objects.

A built-in safety feature of the articulating seat is that it immediately stops if it encounters any resistance while it is in motion.

The Sit-N-Lift power seat makes GM the only automotive manufacturer in the United States to offer a fully motorized, rotating lift-and-lower passenger seat.

Because GM offers the feature as a regular production accessory, installed at a dealership, the price of the $4,590 option is included in the sticker price of the vehicle.

This allows for convenient one-stop shopping for customers and provides customers with warranty coverage through GM’s three-year/36,000-mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty. More information on Sit-N-Lift and GM Mobility is available at gmmobility.com.

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