Carbon Black, whose original wheelchair used Formula 1 technology in its manufacturing process, is creating a buzz at Naidex with a newly launched second generation model which aims to compete with affordable active chairs.
The original Carbon Black wheelchair launched six years ago and had been “universally well received”, according to CEO Paul, but its high price point was a barrier to sales.
Over the summer, the company hunted for investors in a crowdfunding campaign to raise £340,000, which it successfully achieved in just a few months.
The successful fundraising initiative means the Carbon Black II can now be manufactured on a large scale and can target international markets, including the US and Germany.
Speaking at the Naidex show this morning, Paul said: “The original chair has been universally well received but the only negative comment has always been the price. Depending on the model it was always between £12,000 and £16,000.
“So we needed to look at streamlining the manufacturing process, using a number of foreign suppliers and working through a project to make sure we met the same if not greater quality standards. And that’s allowed us to reduce the starting price to just under £4,000.
“If you look at the high-end wheelchair market, most chairs are predominately between £1,500 and £7,000. We’re now fairly close to the middle of that but with our product.
“There have been a number of improvements including fewer parts – where the wheels were three parts, they are now one piece. That means they’re more robust and they’ve got an increased weight limit.
“There’s a huge amount of renewed interest in the chair. It’s a third of the original starting price and it is making a huge difference.”
Paul believes that the NHS’s new personal wheelchair budget system will also help boost sales of the chair.
He said that many early adopters of the Carbon Black II have put some of their own money towards the chair and have also been able to get some funding from their employers. Many users, he said, are now spending less of their own money on a chair but using a better piece of equipment in the Carbon Black II.
He added: “We’re entering the US market in May or June this year and the interest from the US is huge. In the US there’s lots of support from insurance companies which offers greater amounts of money to wheelchair users.”
Mark Lane, whois exhibiting alongside Carbon Black and uses the new chair, said that aside from being practical, the chair is an aesthetic piece of equipment that is attractive to users.
He said: “I think the work that has gone into it is brilliant and it’s a more affordable chair. To define it as a little black sexy number is probably the best thing to call it.
“Although people who use wheelchairs want people to look at the person rather than the wheelchair, the fact that it’s a beautiful wheelchair anyway, people will look at it but at the same time they’ll also notice you.”