Isn’t it bad enough that New Yorkers have to ride in smelly Muslim-driven taxis? Ford Crown Victorias could soon be replaced by taxis made in Turkey. TURKEY?
AUTOS –(H/T Kashenka)— In an unprecedented move, the city will be unifying its iconic taxicab fleet, introducing the first-ever custom-built taxicab designed through a competition dubbed the “Taxi of Tomorrow.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) Chairman David Yassky unveiled the three finalists in the search for the city’s new cab. The announcement comes three years after the TLC first made public its intention to standardize the vehicle, and nearly a year since the agency issued a request for proposals inviting auto manufacturers and designers to submit their best concepts for the new design.
Three finalists — from Ford, Nissan, and newcomer Turkey’s Karsan — were selected from proposals submitted by seven companies.
TURKEY has become a hub for light-commercial vehicle production for many global car companies as this segment has grown in popularity,” said Berna Kurbay, an automotive analyst in New York-based BGC Partners’ Istanbul office. “The visibility created with the New York taxi cab could help create a quality image for cars made in Turkey.”
With Ford planning to close its St. Thomas, Ontario, assembly plant that makes its large, rear-wheel-drive cars, New York is looking at other options for its taxis. Ford offers customers a version of the Transit Connect minivan built with Turkey’s Koç Holding at a seaside plant 100 kilometers from Istanbul. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company began exporting the model from Turkey to the U.S. last year, selling the taxi version in 10 U.S. cities.
New York’s taxi commission is evaluating “best and final offers” from the three finalists, said David Yassky, who chairs a committee of the New York mayor’s office tasked with selecting the winning bid. “The country of manufacture is not now, and has never been a criteria for taxi cabs.
FORD’S DESIGN is based on the Transit Connect van, which is available in the U.S. and was named 2010 North American Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Aside from the advantages of a vehicle that is already in production and available domestically, Ford brings to the table an unmatched wealth of experience in supplying the New York City taxi industry, a TLC spokesperson said. Further, the Transit Connect was approved for taxi use last spring by the city of Boston.
NISSAN’S DESIGN is a compact van that offers the most passenger space of the three, and is based on their NV200 model that was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2009. It is not currently available in the U.S., but unlike the other finalists, Nissan has stated that it will build a fully electric version of the vehicle, Yassky said.
TURKEY’S DESIGN is proposed by Turkish automaker Karsan — which manufactures cars for Fiat and Hyundai — the futuristic-looking V1 doesn’t even exist yet. The smallest of the three, the V1 offers a glass roof, a wheelchair ramp that can reach the curb and a unique configuration where one passenger faces the others, a flashback to the jump seats of the long-retired Checker Cab. Though the V1 has its advantages, Yassky said the company will have to overcome a lack of experience in producing and selling vehicles in the U.S.
The winning proposal will be announced in early 2011 and a contract finalized by summer. The chosen vehicle will be the only licensed taxicab model allowed in the city for at least 10 years.
In the meantime, the TLC has put together a campaign to gauge public opinion, including a survey where New Yorkers can vote for the features they want to see included in the final vehicle design. To incentivize riders, survey participants are entered into a contest to win a year’s worth of free taxi rides.
Make sure you vote NO for the Muslim-made taxis here: Got an opinion? Voice it on the online Taxi of Tomorrow survey.