Nissan Is Named New York City Taxi of Tomorrow

The Nissan NV200 van, a light commercial vehicle already in use in Asian and European markets, has won the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow competition, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced on Tuesday.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that Japanese automobile company Nissan had won a 10-year, $1 billion contract to provide thousands of taxis to the city beginning in about two years. Photo: Nissan

New York City’s next yellow cab will be a Nissan NV200 van. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday that the Japanese automaker had won his administration’s Taxi of Tomorrow competition, which gives the it the exclusive right to provide the city’s 13,000 yellow taxis.

The Nissan NV200 van is a light commercial vehicle already in use in Asian and European markets. And while the vehicle resembles a family minivan, it promises comforts geared toward a more urban creature.

The company’s press release provides a few details about the new model. For starters, they won’t be produced in Japan. But they also won’t be produced in the U.S. Instead, they’ll be produced at Nissan’s Cuernavaca, Mexico facility.

Although the vehicle is available in various locations across the globe, this occasion will mark its entrance into the U.S. market. It will retail for around $29,000.

The vehicle will have a transparent glass roof, interior floor lighting, a deployable entry step, exterior lights that flash when the van’s doors open, and independent, passenger-controlled climate controls.

In 2007, Bloomberg set a goal to make 13,000 of NYC's taxi's hybrids by 2012 in a project called the "Taxi of Tomorrow." This decision was made after a Ford plant in Canada, which was known for making Crown Victoria's and Lincoln Town cars, had decided to shut down. At that time, only 375 taxis were hybrids while 11,700 Crown Victoria taxis were in operation. Today, over 4,300 NYC cabs are hybrids. Photo: Nissan

Yet the choice of the Nissan represents something of a culture shock to New Yorkers more accustomed to a traditional sedan made by an American manufacturer.

The Nissan model, which can potentially be converted to an all-electric engine, beat out contenders from Karsan, a Turkish company that submitted a stylish, amenity-laden design, and Ford, which builds the fleet’s current mainstay, the venerable Crown Victoria.

The competition was set up to award a single manufacturer with an exclusive 10-year contract to provide all 13,000 yellow cabs in the city. The first of the new cars were expected to be rolled out by the fall of 2014, and would eventually make up the entire fleet as older models wear out and are replaced.

The Nissan model does not offer wheelchair accessibility as a standard feature, unlike the Karsan model, which earned plaudits from disability advocates. The Nissan was also considered by some as a fairly prosaic design, but city officials said they were looking for a manufacturer that could confidently promise reliable service and support over the life of the contract.

The Nissan NV200 was selected over two other finalists, which were Ford Motor Co. and Karsan models. After using Ford's Crown Victoria's for years, one has to wonder why NYC didn't choose one of the Big Three automobile manufacturers to supply the new taxi cab fleet. Photo: Nissan

The Karsan model was rejected after officials decided they could not risk awarding the contract to a company with little experience in the American market. And the Ford submission, the Transit Connect van, was viewed as problematic and uninspired.

The selection will likely be controversial. Owners of big taxi fleets have said they don’t want to be stuck using only one model. Advocates for the disabled, meanwhile, oppose any vehicle that isn’t wheelchair accessible. Only Karsan’s entry met that criteria. Ford and Nissan both offered the ability to make some of their vehicles accessible. [NYC and Nissan News via NY Times and Wall Street Journal]

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