Top car manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, is to take closer control of the production of the new style London black cab. Eco City Vehicles (ECV), who developed the taxi by modifying the Mercedes Vito light van, have expressed their concern amid reports that sales in the first half of 2011 had been downcast as a result of difficult trading conditions that London cabbies are faced with, and the launch of an upgraded model. They are currently reviewing their manufacturing arrangements.
Peter DaCosta, Chief Executive at ECV, has been upbeat about future trading prospects thanks to Boris Johnson’s plans to force up to 3,000 taxis, all of which are over 15 years old and covered by taxi insurance, off the road. Many London cabbies feel responsible for helping Johnson win the Mayoral election in 2008, as he promised to end the costly mid-year inspections. However, as is so often the way, the mayor of London now faces some indignation from London cabbies due to his alleged plan to remove more than one in eight cabs from the road in his bid to improve the quality of air in the capital.
DaCosta added that the manufacture of the new Vito black cab model will enable increased competition with the TX4 model produced by rivals, and market leader, Manganese Bronze.
Discussions are already under way for the transfer of responsibility for the modification of the Vito vehicles from ECV to Mercedes-Benz by contractor Penzo. Little coincidence one may feel that the Coventry based supplier is situated just minutes away from the factory of rival Manganese Bronze.
DaCosta has also suggested that by transferring contracting responsibilities to Mercedes, they will be reducing risks for the Aim-quoted business. ECV is a leading stakeholder of One80, which holds the patent and intellectual property rights to the rear-wheel steer used in Vito vans that enables them to meet 25ft turning circle requirements that all London cabs must have.
The company now believes it accounts for over a quarter of black cabs sold in London, and ECV are still able to benefit from the increase in production volumes of the black cab, despite having altered from the producer to the seller. The company’s revenue remained steady at £27.4 million from January to December last year, while a move into a small operating profit helped lower pre-tax losses from £393,000 to £265,000 for the year.