NYC awards taxi pact to Nissan

Minivan will be phased into fleet

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the minivan might make some think of suburbia. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the minivan might make some think of suburbia. (Mary Altaffer/ Associated Press)
By Samantha Gross
Associated Press / May 4, 2011

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NEW YORK — It looks like something you’d see on a suburban cul-de-sac, not inching through Times Square.

A boxy minivan made by Nissan will be the next iconic yellow cab in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday.

The model, selected from among three finalists in a city competition, is designed so that it could eventually be updated with an electric engine. The city is exploring the possibility of ultimately replacing the city’s entire fleet of more than 13,000 taxis with vehicles powered by electricity.

Bloomberg conceded at a City Hall news conference that the minivan — which offers extra passenger legroom and enough trunk space for the luggage of four people — might make some think of suburbia, but he said the distinctive yellow paint job will make them New York icons.

The minivan features a panoramic overhead window that will give tourists a view of the city’s skyscrapers and onboard outlets and charging stations that will allow professionals to treat the cabs as mobile offices. David Yassky, the city taxi and limousine commissioner, said he believed the vehicles could become as beloved as the Checker cabs of yesteryear.

“Not a week goes by when somebody doesn’t say to me, ‘Why can’t you bring back the Checker?’ ’’ he said

The anchor of the city’s current fleet of more than 13,200 taxis is Ford’s Crown Victoria, which was recently discontinued.

The Nissan van, which beat out proposals from Ford Motor Co. and Turkey’s Karsan, will be phased in beginning in 2013 as older taxis age out of service. All current taxis, including hybrid cabs, will be off the streets by 2018.

Although the city was not legally allowed to make its decision based on fuel efficiency, Nissan’s vehicles would double efficiency to 25 miles per gallon from the Crown Victoria’s 12 to 13 miles per gallon, the mayor said. The Nissan was the most fuel efficient and the cheapest of the three finalists, and is expected to cost about $29,000.

Some officials said they were unhappy with the final selection and questioned why the Karsan model wasn’t chosen after the automaker pledged to build the vehicles in Brooklyn. Bloomberg said that getting approval for and building an automotive plant in the city within the two-year limit wasn’t feasible.