Nissan taxi readies for battle with London's black cabs

LONDON Mon Jan 6, 2014 11:03am EST

LONDON Jan 6 (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co unveiled its new Taxi for London on Monday, having adapted an existing van to look more like the city's traditional black cabs and allow the Japanese group to challenge the London market's current duopoly.

Nissan, which already supplies taxis in New York, Barcelona and Tokyo, said the new petrol-engine taxi would be based on its NV200 multi-purpose van and should be on the streets by the end of the year.

The company first unveiled the taxi in August 2012 but had to adapt it after feedback from the city's transport bodies.

"We have worked closely with the mayor's office and associated stakeholders and interested parties to ensure that Nissan's new cab not only raises the bar for both driver and passenger, but is also as instantly recognisable as its legendary forebears," Executive Vice-President Andy Palmer said.

The vehicle was adapted to give it round headlamps, a re-modelled grille similar to those found on the traditional London black cabs and LED lighting to make sure the yellow taxi sign is clearly visible.

It will also adhere to the strict regulations for London's so-called Hackney Carriages, or black cabs, including a 25-foot turning circle enabling it to turn around in London's narrow streets.

Once on the road, Nissan will compete against the dominant manufacturer, London Taxi Co (LTC), which operated as Manganese Bronze until it was saved last year by Chinese carmaker Geely .

Eco City Vehicles also runs the Mercedes Vito taxi.

Transport for London said there were almost 23,000 black taxis licensed to operate in the capital at the beginning of January, with the Mercedes Vito accounting for 2,177. The rest are made by LTC.

Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, said the new taxi would be welcomed by the industry because it would be cleaner than the traditional diesel cabs.

Industry rumours have suggested that they will also be cheaper than their competitors.

Nissan said that it also hopes to have an electric taxi on the streets of a British city in 2015.