Since the mid 1970s, AHA Automotive Design Inc. has been producing custom limousines in Canada. The company is the only certified Quality Vehicle Manufacturer (QVM) and Certified Master Coachbuilder (CMC) in the country. However, even with this distinction, company president Mel Stein’s approach to making vehicles doesn’t change.
“Being the only QVM/CMC builder in Canada places us in the position of having to ‘customise’ our production in order to present a competitive product that our customer may like,” Stein says. “The result of this has caused us to present as user-friendly and complete a limousine as possible, building into the package all of the desired features and eliminating, as much as possible, the need for custom work. This gives the customer a lot of special features as standard that would be extra with other builders. This special work and the flexibility required to satisfy our customers contributes to maintaining a more than capable and versatile work force.”
Stein, a native Torontonian, says that his greater challenge is the distribution of his vehicles.
“The population of 30 million is spread throughout Canada, with great distances between population centres,” Stein explains. “Potential unit sales in some communities make it prohibitive to establish a dealer anywhere close by.”
However, Stein and AHA have responded to this challenge by developing a program called “Drive-M/Deal-M.”
“The program permits a local livery operator to become a part-time dealer,” Stein says. “He uses his own fleet purchases to commit to greater purchases than he would otherwise be able to make, and thereby operate a ‘sideline’ business that is revenue-producing, but could not support itself on its own. The collateral benefit is that his fleet is constantly being updated.”
Motor City Beginnings AHA has been developing vehicles for more than half a century. Andy Hotton, a young engineer, started the company (Andy Hotton Associates - AHA) in 1947 as a custom fabrication and custom car operation outside of Detroit.
Early on AHA developed the handling package for the 1947 Ford Police Car and built a custom 1963 “Town Car” limousine for the White House.
In the mid-1960s, the company converted a series of Ford LTDs into limousines for airport and corporate work. By 1969, the company was producing a line of limousine conversions on the Lincoln Continental body.
In the mid-1970s, production moved to the Toronto area. Stein, a business associate of Hotton’s since the ’60s, became president and the company continues the AHA tradition.
“Luxury transportation in Canada has evolved in much the same way as in the U.S.,” Stein says. “Livery operators are always looking for something that will make their company distinctive, and it is our job to serve them.”