Nissan’s least popular model to be Taxi of TomorrowBy
The Nissan NV200, the least popular model of the three finalists, will be the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow, Mayor Bloomberg is set to announce today. After a lengthy RFP process and a public comment period, the city chose to ignore the popular vote to go with a car that seems to be practical, cheap and ugly to replace the Crown Victoria. On the bright side, the Nissan NV200, with a fuel economy of around 35 miles per gallon and the option to go electric, is far more fuel efficient than the current fleet, but the design is lacking in both creativity and accessibility.
The city’s decision to award Nissan with an exclusive ten-year deal to provide the city with bulky, ugly taxi vans that will enter service in 2014 is not without controversy. In terms of popular support, Nissan’s vehicle not only finished third out of three among voters but did so by a significantly large margin. Only 236 out of more than 19,000 voters supported the design. Meanwhile, city officials are already alleging a conflict of interest in the decision.
This news, though, comes as little surprise as in recent days it seemed clear that the city was leaning toward an established manufacturer of taxis for this contract. As The Times reported yesterday, the city had rejected the Turkey-based Karsan’s design, complete with see-through moon roof, over viability concerns. Karsan has yet to make a car for an American market, and despite promises of a factory in Brooklyn, the company reportedly would likely not be able to meet the demands of the Taxi of Tomorrow program.
Meanwhile, the Nissan car, in use in Asia and Europe, is far from perfect. From a design perspective, it’s bulky and ugly, and it’s tough to say this is an “iconic design that will identify the new taxi with New York City,” as the original project guideline requested. It takes up a lot of space on the road — not necessarily a bad thing as its sliding doors should eliminate potential “doorings” in accidents with cyclists. But the car is not ADA-compliant, and advocates for disabled riders are not happy with it. In fact, because this is a comprehensive city-based scheme, it could be vulnerable to a legal challenge.
Back in November, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke guardedly about the competition. “Each is promising, but none is perfect,” he said. “We are not obliged to go with anything if it does not meet our needs.” It appears as though the city has decided to go forward with a vehicle, albeit one I find uninspiring, boring and flawed. For a project that’s supposed to be forward-looking, the design is decidedly and rather bulky. The taxi fleet deserves better.
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Update (4:10 p.m.): Reuters has a story up with the official announcement. Nothing too exciting, but the Mayor spoke highly of Nissan’s offerings. “It’s going to be the safest, most comfortable, and most convenient cab the City has ever had,” he said. “We started this process to leverage our taxi industry’s purchasing power to get the highest quality taxi. The new taxis will be custom-designed to meet the specific demands of carrying 600,000 passengers a day.”