As Manganese Bronze continues to struggle with the impending threat of bankruptcy looming, two major car manufacturers are waiting in the wings to take over as London’s taxi cab of choice.
The Mercedes-Benz Vito and Nissan NV200 models, based on the manufacturers’ commercial vans, could replace the traditional black cab which has become an icon the world over for its use in movies, books and on postcards.
Coventry-based Manganese Bronze Holdings Plc., which first started making taxis in 1948, hasn’t posted a profit since 2007 and has been plagued with problems the last few months, having had to issue a recall of vehicles with defective steering units in October and since entering administration following a failure to secure funds needed to preserve the company’s future.
With significant question marks now surrounding the company’s future and the taxi market being worth about 50 million per year, not including affiliated markets such as taxi insurance, both Mercedes and Nissan are now ready to step in to become the London taxi cab of choice.
As of today the only other car that meets the required specifications to qualify as a licensed taxi is the Mercedes-Benz Vito, but next year Nissan are due to unveil a modified version of their NV200 which they say will meet London’s licensing rules, including cab-friendly alterations such as extra-durable interiors.
Nissan’s plans extend beyond simply providing a fully licensed taxi cab as well.
The Japanese car manufacturer plans to use its taxi sales to provide a springboard for the electric technology it has spent 4 billion euros on with partner Renault. A battery-powered model of the NV200 may enter production as early as 2014, backing London Mayor Boris Johnson’s aim to make the capital’s taxi cabs universally electric by 2020.
Replacing the famous black cabs will be no easy task though with many cabbies still remaining loyal to a brand so familiar and endearing.
Cab driver John Dixon says, “A London taxi shouldn’t be an everyday car. In a Vito you are just the same as everyone else.”
Manganese Bronze’s own survival prospects were also given a slight boost last month when the company said it had solved the recent steering fault, claiming recalled cabs would be back on the road later this month, so it remains to be seen whether Mercedes and Nissan can yet topple London’s famous black cab.