Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s second- biggest carmaker, was chosen to supply New York’s next fleet of yellow taxi cabs, a deal city officials valued at $1 billion over 10 years.
Nissan beat out proposals from two other finalists in the “Taxi of Tomorrow” competition: Ford Motor Co. (F) and Karsan Otomotiv Sanayi & Ticaret AS of Turkey, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today. The automaker’s NV200 minivan will become the new standard, eventually replacing the city’s 13,237-car fleet, which now consists of 16 models.
“It’s going to be the safest and most convenient cab the city has ever had,” Bloomberg said today at a City Hall news conference with Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky. “Nissan’s submission, we think, was far and away the best among the three finalists.”
The model, which will begin appearing in 2013, is the first New York City taxi to be fully crash-tested, Bloomberg said. Features include a transparent roof, passenger air bags, charging stations for mobile devices, high fuel-efficiency ratings and built-in GPS navigation systems. The current fleet will be phased out by 2018.
New York now enters final negotiations with Nissan for the contract, four years after the competition started. Seven companies responded in December 2009 to New York’s request for proposals.
“Nissan shares New York’s vision for sustainability, and we are committed to improving life for people in urban areas,” Carlos Tavares, chairman of Nissan Americas, said at the briefing. The cars will be produced in Mexico and fitted for taxi use by American workers, he said.
The new cars are designed to be durable handling New York’s pothole-riddled roads and changing weather over the course of a typical 70,000-mile year, Bloomberg said. Fuel efficiency of 25 miles per gallon will save both taxi drivers and riders money and may help negate the need for fare increases, he said.
The NV200 can be fully electrically powered beginning in 2017, Bloomberg said. This year, Nissan will supply the city with six electric-powered Nissan Leafs to begin road testing as taxis at no cost.
“If they prove successful, they could lead New York to also start using all-electric NV200s when they become available,” Bloomberg said. “That would be a big step toward cleaning our air, improving our public health and shrinking our carbon footprint.”
The collaboration is “a win-win opportunity to aggregate the city’s market power and offer an automaker the opportunity to link its brand to the hugely powerful New York taxi brand in a way that brings a custom-built car to New York City,” Yassky said.
Bill De Blasio, the city’s public advocate, criticized Bloomberg for giving a contract to a company based overseas “without seeking any commitments for investment in our local and national economies,” according to an e-mailed statement from his office.
Ford planned to build its taxis in Turkey, Bloomberg said. After initially proposing to manufacture its version in Turkey, Karsan proposed a month ago to build them in Brooklyn. That plan was “just not practical” or time-feasible, he said.
“There are no American makers that wanted to build cars here,” Bloomberg said.
Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, will follow up with city officials on the decision and is working to add its Transit Connect van to the city’s fleet for immediate service, said Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. sales.
“We’ve been a proud provider of taxi services to New York City for a long, long time and we were happy to participate in this program and in the bidding process,” Czubay said today on a conference call with analysts and reporters. “It’s really not over yet.”
The sticker price for the first model year of the Nissan NV200s is $29,000, Yassky said. Their life-cycle cost will be “dramatically less” than Ford’s Crown Victorias on the road today because of fuel efficiency, he said. The NV200’s 25 miles per gallon in the first year compares with 12 miles to 13 miles per gallon for Crown Victorias, Yassky said.
The mayor received input from 23,000 of the 600,000 passengers who use yellow cabs daily in the most-populous U.S. city through a survey page on the city’s www.nyc.gov website. The poll asked passengers to rate the importance of several categories, including fuel economy, interior room, accessibility and amenities such as electric outlets to recharge mobile phones.
The current fleet comes from nine manufacturers. It includes 3,983 hybrids, five that run on compressed natural gas and 17 “clean diesel” cabs, according to the commission. Yellow became the uniform color by law in 1967. Cabs have a life cycle of about three to five years, after which they must be replaced.
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
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