New York’s New Taxi Will Be a Nissan Van
Decades ago, when you travelled to the Big Apple, there was but one kind of taxi: the ubiquitous Checker. Beloved by many because of their spacious interior and incredible durability – not to mention timeless shape – the last Checker retired from active taxi duty in 1999. It was not unusual to see a Checker’s odometer tallying a million miles before the car was finally retired. In more recent years, the taxi of choice in New York was the Ford Crown Victoria. Though it’s still a big car, the Crown Vic was never as great of a taxi as the Checker; it had far less interior room than its outward size would suggest, and it’s just not as graceful to enter and exit as the big Checker was.
New York has also allowed a number of alternative taxis over the years; there are several hybrids (Altima, Escapes, Camrys, Priuses, etc.) as well as Sienna minivans. But starting in 2013, the only approved New York taxi will be supplied by Nissan, and based on its NV200 commercial van.
The ugly duckling NV200 is not in any way related to either the new Quest minivan sold to retail customers, nor to the Titan pickup-based NV1500/NV2500/NV3500 commercial vans. Instead, the NV200 is based on Nissan’s global B-segment platform that also underpins the Versa subcompact. While the Versa is currently built in Mexico, the NV200 is currently only built in Japan, Spain, and China. However, part of the deal with New York is that the 13,000 taxis will be assembled in Mexico.
Nissan will also build an electric version of the NV200, and will prepare an electric New York taxi, for the United States.
So why would Nissan expend so much effort just to get 13,000 incremental sales over 10 years?
The company is hoping to use the New York taxi contract as a springboard to further develop its commercial-vehicle business. Having North American production of the NV200 – along with US production of the company’s larger commercial vans – means that much of the groundwork will have been done when Nissan launches the NV200 to commercial buyers in the future.
Nissan also intends to reach out to other US cities for taxi deals, but clearly, there’s no bigger city for taxis in the US than New York.
New York’s bidding process also featured two other finalists. Ford submitted a proposal for its Turkey-built Transit Connect taxi, while the (ironically) Turkey-based startup firm Karsan Otomotiv Sanayii Ve Ticaret AS, which was proposing to assemble its taxis from kits in Brooklyn. (Yes, the American company was going to sell taxis built in Turkey, and the Turkish company was going to sell taxis built in America. What a strange world we live in.)