Home Taxis Nissan’s least popular model to be Taxi of Tomorrow

Nissan’s least popular model to be Taxi of Tomorrow

by Benjamin Kabak

The Nissan NV200 is reported to be the Taxi of Tomorrow.

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.”

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36 comments

Charles Windham May 3, 2011 - 12:24 pm

I find it disturbing that in todays economic climate, Bloomberg would choose a car made in Japan.

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Benjamin Kabak May 3, 2011 - 12:26 pm

Nissan has said the Taxi of Tomorrow cars will all be manufactured in the US.

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Bolwerk May 3, 2011 - 12:31 pm

It hardly matters, except for the whole matter of trade tariffs and stuff. Almost any car company is using components from all over the place.

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David May 3, 2011 - 3:43 pm

The heavy old Crown Vic was built in Canada.
The ugly Ford Transit Connect is built in Turkey.
The Karsan, while the best design, has no proven record.
The Nissan is dull but will be assembled here and Nissan has the ability to modify the whole vehicle quite easily.

I just want to be able to tell if the cab is available from 3 blocks away. Is that too much to ask?

Judging from all the design options, yes.

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William M May 4, 2011 - 4:14 pm

From the last thing I read the Nissan is going to be assembled in Mexico not NYC.

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Alon Levy May 4, 2011 - 6:28 pm

Cars are never assembled in New York. They’d have to be imported from another region, either in or out of the US.

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Bolwerk May 3, 2011 - 12:34 pm

I don’t get why they’d favor such a large vehicle – fuel efficient or not, it is prudent to take up less street space.

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Dave May 3, 2011 - 12:39 pm

It’s just a deceiving picture- it’s actually shorter than a Honda Civic.

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Bolwerk May 3, 2011 - 1:41 pm

…which isn’t that short anyway.

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Jonathan May 3, 2011 - 10:01 pm

Regardless of how short or long it is, it won’t take up nearly as much space as the Crown Vics do… So its an improvement.

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Bolwerk May 4, 2011 - 12:53 am

Well, no doubt it’s an improvement. Seems to be a squandered opportunity though.

ferryboi May 3, 2011 - 1:00 pm

Makes one long for the 1982-89 Dodge Diplomat/Plymouth Gran Fury taxis. Roomy, nice big bench seats, good-sized trunk, yet not too big and bulky (later model Crown Vics were MUCH bigger and took up more space).

Was the Chrysler 300 ever considered as a Crown Vic replacement? It’s big/roomy enough and has been around for years, meaning parts are easy to come by.

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Kid Twist May 3, 2011 - 1:51 pm

Bring back the Checker Marathon.

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Donald May 3, 2011 - 1:03 pm

This Nissan taxi just looks like a super ugly Nissan Quest. It looks like a Nissan Quest that someone high on drugs designed.

Is this car REALLY going to be built, or is it something that will just die down the road?

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Christopher May 3, 2011 - 1:48 pm

It already exists and is sold in Europe and Asia. It’s an extremely popular model. Another reason to consider this over something custom. It’s been highly rated too as a light duty vehicle. Similar to the Ford Transit Connect in that way.

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Donald May 3, 2011 - 1:05 pm

Personally I would have rather them taken an EXISTING car like the Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna and used that as a taxi. I don’t get why we need an entirely new car.

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Benjamin Kabak May 3, 2011 - 1:08 pm

It’s not an entirely new car. The Nissan NV200 has been around for a few years, and as I said in the post, it’s a taxi in Asia and Europe.

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BBnet3000 May 3, 2011 - 1:08 pm

Arg. I favored the Karsan design, though i had concerns about viability from an unknown Turkish company.

Which is why I thought the Ford Transit Connect would be picked. Ive been seeing the mini-delivery van version all over the place recently, and ive been fairly pleased with the idea of it being the taxi of tomorrow.

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ferryboi May 3, 2011 - 1:16 pm

Give it some time. A year or so from now, the city will quietly announce that the Nissan is out of the running and the Ford Transit Connect will swoop in to take its place. In the end, a durable American car with easy-to-replace parts will become the “new” taxi for NYC.

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Christopher May 3, 2011 - 1:50 pm

It’s actually from Ford of Europe. I think the Transit Connect and the Nissan are comparable. Really. They are both very popular in Europe and Asia. I’ve driven the Connect (you can rent them in Queens.) Both handle like cars. And are easy to park.

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Jonathan May 3, 2011 - 10:04 pm

Just because it says “Ford” doesn’t mean its American. The developer is Ford Europe, and the manufacturer is Otosan, which is a Turkey-based joint venture between Ford and a Turkish company.

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Donald May 3, 2011 - 1:32 pm

I would have rather seen the Crown Vics kept. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And besides, Nissan cars are generally not as relaible as Honda and Toyota. Nissan is a second tier Japanes car company. I would not have gone with them.

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Christopher May 3, 2011 - 1:52 pm

Crown Vics aren’t produced anymore. Nissan is actually considered in Japan more reliable than Toyota. Or Honda. Toyota’s Crown is top of the line, then Nissan and Mitsubishi are generally considered better. Honda’s are considered cars second, motorcycle’s first.

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Donald May 3, 2011 - 1:55 pm

Actually Consumer Reports ranks Honda and Toyota better than Nissan. Plus Nissan isn’t even totally Japanese. Nearly half the company is owned by Renault. They had to sell themseles because they were doing horrible.

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Christopher May 3, 2011 - 3:59 pm

I’m just telling you what the impression in Japan is. Nissan is considered a higher-end marque. As my Japanese-born partner says, “Honda and Toyota are for poor people.”

I’m a fan of Honda’s (they are cars for geeks) but have also had Nissan’s that were great. Renault, despite their rep in the U.S., has actually been a great parent for Nissan. And does remarkably well worldwide, they had money to spend and went looking for a company to buy.

Nissan is also especially good at trucks and vans. Just like Mitsubishi. But Japan is like Europe in that high-end marques can also be associated with trucks and not tarnish their brand image. (Cf. Mercedes and Volvo)

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Benjamin Kabak May 3, 2011 - 2:03 pm

Besides the fact that Ford has stopped making the Crown Vic model, the car makes for a terrible taxi. Its fuel economy is under 20 MPG in city driving conditions whereas the Nissan is around 35. That alone makes the switch to a more efficient vehicles well worth it.

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Jonathan May 3, 2011 - 1:53 pm

I have to agree with Ben that the design is forgettable, not iconic. However, as someone who has direct experience with the RFP process, I can assert that sometimes you have to take the best of a bad lot.

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ferryboi May 3, 2011 - 2:16 pm

And most cab riders aren’t looking to hail an icon. They want to go from A to B in reasonable comfort and with room for luggage if needed. Still I can’t help wondering if Ford, Chrysler, GM and other manufacturers couldn’t come up with better than this. Or maybe they just didn’t want to be bothered jumping through Bloomy’s hoops to sell a few thousand cars a year, most of them at little profit since cabs generally are not heavily optioned (sunroofs, CD players, power seats, etc). That’s where the really money is made.

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Jonathan May 3, 2011 - 4:20 pm

ferryboi, did you read the RFP?

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Scott E May 3, 2011 - 2:22 pm

I’ll bet “iconic” is the sole reason that Nissan won. If you look at the images of the other finalists, the Ford entry put the “T” in a square instead of a circle, without the “NYC” before it, and Karsan neither emphasized the “T” nor did they include the checkerboard design. Both omitted the official taxicab typeface.

It’s only a design, and paint and decals are cheap, but only Nissan included the stupid looking design that the city over-researched and implemented three and a half years ago. Nissan sucked up to the decision-makers by showing them their idea, while the others did not.

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Donald May 3, 2011 - 4:02 pm

Why is the TLC telling cab ownerts what car they can use? Why not let them decide? If they want a Camry or Odysssey taxi, why not let them use one?

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Nathanael May 4, 2011 - 11:38 pm

It’s worse than that. By picking a not-ADA-accessible cab, the city is now PROHIBITING private taxi companies from providing accessibility…. that can’t be legal, can it?

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Donald May 3, 2011 - 4:06 pm

Ben, your original post is wrong. The Nissan only get 25 MPG, not 35:

http://www.reuters.com/article.....38;sp=true

I looked it up because I could not believe that such a big, boxy car with no aerodynamic design could get 35 MPG. Sure enough, I was right.

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Benjamin Kabak May 3, 2011 - 4:12 pm

Other online sources had that figure other 30. Needless to say, that’s still a significant upgrade over the Crown Vics.

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Donald May 3, 2011 - 4:30 pm

The Crown Vic is an 8 cyclinder. The Nissan is a 4 cyclinder. Big difference.

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Peter May 3, 2011 - 4:41 pm

I think the city made the prudent choice in skipping Karsan – safer to contract with a large company with an established record and parts/repair market in the US. But the design is a huge disappointment. It’s a lightly modified minivan. The Karsan was the only one of the bunch with a shred of ingenuity. I think the city would have been better off declaring no winner and continuing with the current patchwork fleet of TLC-approved models. Try the design competition again in a couple years and hope for more compelling entrants.

And what exactly are the terms of this 10-year contract? I hope the city isn’t dumb enough to enter into a deal that allows Nissan to provide identical copies of this van for 10 years. That’s the whole problem with the Crown Vic – it’s horribly outdated technology. If the van isn’t even scheduled to go start hitting the streets until 2014, the design will be 15 years old by the end of Nissan’s contract.

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