Nissan’s Taxi of Tomorrow hails wary New Yorkers with scents and sensibility
Arriving in 2013, this Nissan van will replace the departed Ford Crown Victoria as New York City's official yellow taxi, with 13,000 expected to fill the streets within five years. Nissan's calling it the Taxi of Tomorrow, and wooing the 600,000 New Yorkers who hail a cab every day with vows of a ride that fits a digital world rather than the Vic's vinyl.
Last year, New York's taxi commission chose the Nissan design — a variation of its NV200 van — over a Turkish company and Ford, which had pitched a version of its Transit Connect van. Being New York, the choice sparked immediate opposition; the Nissan will be built in Mexico, while the Transit Connect was slated to come from a U.S. factory, and and a federal judge has ordered the city to make any new taxis handicapped accessible, which Nissan says will be possible with an add-on kit when the taxis arrive.
Inside, the Japanese automaker says the NV200s will offer a cabin closer to business class and less like a visitors' room at the county jail. The seating for four people will come covered in a fabric that fights stinky microbes, with a 12-volt electrical outlet, USB charging point and passenger-controlled air conditioning. Drivers get similar improvements — stinky microbe-removing ceiling fabric, breathable seats and standard navigation units. (Nissan has a strong opinion about the aromatic nature of current New York city cabs.)
Outside, Nissan and New York authorities made several alterations to make the new cab workable in city driving. The horn was altered for lessening the annoyance of passers-by, special lights flash when the passenger doors open and the van's 2-liter, four-cylinder engine should be far more efficient than the V8 that powered the Crown Vics. And while the Crown Vic's only safety features for passengers was seat belts and some padding on the partition, Nissan's van will come with an array of air bags and have crash-testing done with the partition in place.
Nissan's making a huge publicity push for the NV200 Taxi ahead of the New York auto show, because while the city has picked a winner, taxi companies and drivers remain unsure of the choice. The Crown Vic may have been old, cramped and bursting with stinky microbes, but it was also inexpensive to fix and durable over pothole-riddled streets at speed. There's no going back to the Vic, but Nissan still has to convince the public that it's the only taxi of tomorrow — and it'd be just like New Yorkers to decide you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone.