Yesterday New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg gave a preview of the three designs competing to become the next official NYC taxi. Nisssan, Ford, and Turkish manufacturer Karsan are offering designs that are more minivan based rather than resembling a passenger car. The reason for the competition is to find a successor to the discontinued Ford Crown Victoria and the mixed collection of hybrid cars and sport utility vehicles that are temporarily filling in.
Nissan’s entry is based on their compact NV200 Vanette currently sold in Japan. The exterior design is essentially unchanged except for signage and the distinctive yellow paint job. The proposed interior provides rear passengers with a single bench seat and open cargo area. Working in Nissan favor is the generous legroom provided for rear passengers as well as the potential electric technology transfer from the plug-in Leaf to the new cab.
Ford has submitted a taxi version of their Transit Connect. Similar to the Nissan entry, the Transit Connect’s exterior design is nearly stock. The interior is fitted with split seats in the rear and a cargo area behind them. The Transit Connect could also be converted to become a plug-in electric vehicle. One seemingly small point of difference between the Nissan and the Ford is how the back door functions. The Nissan has a traditional large lift gate. The Transit Connect on the other hand has split doors. Why might this matter? The doors of the Transit Connect are smaller, lighter and easier to operate than the single gate on the Nissan. Also there is a reduced chance of hitting your head on the Ford’s side swinging doors versus the overhead gate of the Nissan.
The Karsan proposal is the most unique and not based on a vehicle currently in production. The exterior design balances a faceted lower body with a sweeping upper glass canopy. The proposal is the only design to provide wheelchair access. The unique layout of the interior replaces the front passenger seat with a space for a wheelchair or passenger cargo. The back cabin seats four passengers by providing a rear facing jump seat behind the driver. Additional cargo space is located behind the rear passenger seats.
The automaker who wins this selection process gets exclusive rights to supply the cab fleet of over 13,000 vehicles for a decade. That may not sound like in terms of volume but the contract has a potential value of $1 billion dollars. The city is remaining hush on their choice but said that none of the three is a perfect solution yet.