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Nissan has unveiled what it says will be a cleaner, more efficient version of London’s iconic black taxicab, due to go on sale from next year.
The Japanese carmaker on Tuesday showed a modified version of the NV200, its boxy van which was chosen last year as New York’s next yellow taxi.
Nissan said the diesel-engined car would be cheaper to buy and run than alternative London taxi cabs – notably the TX4 made by Manganese Bronze Holdings, which supplies most of the cabs in London’s 22,000-strong taxi fleet. The group says the NV200 will achieve 53.3 miles per gallon and offer a 50 per cent fuel saving on the most efficient TX4.
The taxi holds three passengers on a rear bench and two on rear-facing, fold-down seats, with the front passenger seat removed to make more space for luggage. Its sliding doors are designed to open and close easily and avoid mishaps with pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles.
The NV200 last year won New York’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” contest, giving Nissan the right to supply all of the city’s yellow taxis for 10 years, starting in late 2013. Nissan has been supplying taxis to Tokyo’s cabbies since last year.
“It’s becoming the ubiquitous taxi,” Andy Palmer, Nissan’s head of product planning, said of the vehicle, which Nissan described as a “global taxi”.
In the UK, where taxi drivers and fleets buy their vehicles, Nissan’s model will compete against the TX4 and Mercedes-Benz’s Vito. Nissan said that its taxi could be “competitively priced” below the TX4, the lowest-priced version of which sells for about £32,000.
The taxi will be made at Nissan’s factory in Barcelona. A zero-emission electric version of the NV200 will be ready for testing in London in 2014, Nissan said, with a battery and motor to be made at its plant in Sunderland, England.
The company’s announcement coincided with the London 2012 Olympic Games, for which Nissan unsuccessfully bid to become chief automotive sponsor, losing out to BMW.
Nissan denied that the timing of its announcement amounted to “guerrilla marketing.” Mr Palmer said: “BMW don’t make cabs, so I don’t think there’s any issue here.”
To comply with the Olympics’ strict rules on marketing, Nissan withdrew for the duration of the Games a TV advertisement featuring champion sprinter Usain Bolt. The Japanese company is the official automotive sponsor of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.