After sitting idle since an October 2012 bankruptcy filing, the London Taxi Company’s factory in Coventry, England, reopened on 11 September, and production of its sole product, the neo-classical TX4 hackney carriage, picked up where it had left off nearly a year earlier.
The company’s unlikely saviour? China’s Geely Holding Group. The Hangzhou-based automaker, which acquired Volvo Cars from Ford in 2010, had been a stakeholder in London Taxi since 2006 before buying the company outright in February 2013 for £11.4m.
So far, the reopening has created 66 new jobs at the London Taxi factory – many of them among the 99 workers (of 176) who were let go when production stopped. When the line is back to full speed, it will produce 50 taxis each week. The Coventry factory has produced some 160,000 black cabs over the last 60 years.
Although Geely has big plans for the TX4 in such markets as Russia and the Middle East, the company will continue to face pressure at home. Nissan is making a play on the taxicab market with its recently unveiled NV200 London Taxi, and Mercedes-Benz is already selling its Spanish-built Vito Taxi here, which currently accounts for about 7% of London’s 20,000 taxis.
But for those who cannot abide the prospect of a London without the venerable hackney carriage, this day – and this photograph – is for you.
Taxi Trivia: Since 1906, London law has required that black cabs have a turning circle of no more than 28 feet – allowing them to navigate the tight roundabout at the entrance to the Savoy Hotel in Westminster. The London Taxi TX4 and the coming Nissan NV200 accomplish this feat with wide-set front wheels and specially designed front suspensions; the larger Mercedes-Benz Vito makes use of a low-speed rear-wheel steering system, engaged by the driver via a switch on the dashboard.