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London Taxis go white for Australia

White knight: The white Geely TX4 taxis destined for Australia will be fitted with Wi-Fi and have wheelchair accessibility.

London Taxi Company appoints local distributor to import ‘white cabs’ in Australia

Geely logo7 Mar 2013

LONDON taxis could soon ply Australian roads – but they won’t be the big, black behemoths our continental cousins instantly recognise.

Instead, they will be white – that is if the Victorian government allows the company that imports them to Australia to bend the legislation that requires all taxis to be yellow for easy identification.

London Taxi Company, the group behind plans to bring the iconic cabs to Australia, said today it has appointed former Mercedes-Benz Smart and GM Hummer importer Evan Simeon as the local distributor for its taxis in Australia.

Mr Simeon said that the change of colour for the Geely TX4 taxis will depend on state government legislation, especially in Victoria where all taxis must be yellow for easy identification.

Mr Simeon highlighted number of factors as reasons for the switch from black to white in Australia, including climate control inside the cabs.

“They are 20 per cent cooler in the summer time,” he said. “Between 15 and 20 per cent cooler is a big change of interior temperature in the cab.”

Mr Simeon said that ease of identification was another benefit to introducing the white taxis to local roads.

“The reason cabs are yellow in Victoria is because everyone can identify them as a taxi. But there will be no problem identifying our car as a taxi because nothing else looks like this car.

“The shape is distinctive, you won’t miss it. It’s a lot higher than other sedan so you will see it in the distance with the colour roof, you’ll see the shape. It is easily identifiable,” he said.

Mr Simeon said that servicing the car would be easier that traditional Australian taxis as it was more difficult to match yellow panels than white after an accident.

LTC claims that servicing costs would be kept to a minimum through the use of bolt-on, bolt-off panels and low-cost maintenance schedules.

Saftey was another reason for the white paint, with Mr Simeon saying that it stands out more than the black colour of the original London cabs.

With an office based in Melbourne, Mr Simeon confirmed that the newly-formed company would expand in a staged process to all states and territories once the operation was up and running.

Mr Simeon was unable to discuss many of the logistical aspects of setting up a taxi company in Australia, including timing, but said that talks had already begun with local taxi associations and state governments through the British office.

A former commercial lawyer, Mr Simeon has taken on the role of chief executive officer of The London Taxi Company (Aust) Limited of Melbourne and currently has a team of five staff including a logistics manager, service and parts agent, and two directors.

GoAuto reported last month that the board of the London Taxi Company had decided to pursue the Australian market and was in the process of naming a distributor, following a takeover of parent company Manganese Bronze Holdings (MBH) by Chinese company Zhejiang Geely.

The establishment of a local distributorship was delayed a number of times, with MBH sliding into administration in 2012 before a takeover by major shareholder Geely in February.

Mr Simeon said he did not think there would be much concern about importing vehicles instead of using locally made taxis, as there were no purpose-built taxis currently made in Australia.

“If something was built in Australia that was purpose-built, I’d say you have got an issue, but there’s nothing purpose-built, they are all converted family sedans,” he said.

“The fact that it is purpose-built means it is engineered, designed and manufactured as a purpose-built taxi. It’s not converted from a van which is designed to carry cargo if you look at some of the vans on the market.”

Mr Simeon said that the TX4 was designed to function within the unique taxi work cycle and could even have an impact on the booming limousine industry.

“The reason we have a developed limousine industry in Australia is because of a failing taxi market. If the taxi market was up to scratch there wouldn’t be a flourishing limousine industry,” he said.

Australian-spec taxis will be wheelchair accessible to around 80 per cent of wheelchairs on the market and include other accessibility features such as swivel seats, high-visibility handles and an intercom with hearing loop.

The rear compartment of the TX4 can seat five passengers, with luggage storage in what would normally be the front passenger seat area.

Technology will be a focus for LTC, as the rear compartment will act as a “traveling office” with Wi-Fi connectivity, power points for phones and laptops, dual USB charging points and seats facing each other.

Drivers seated in the ergonomically designed cockpit will be screened off from the passenger compartment, increasing safety.

While Australian taxis have a life cycle of about six years, Mr Simeon said he hoped that the London taxis would have a longer life cycle of 10 to 12 years.

Although pricing is yet to be announced, Mr Simeon said that the importers were aiming for sub-$50,000 plus on-road costs for the single-model 2.5-litre turbo-diesel automatic variant.

Mr Simeon also announced that the London Taxi Company Australia would be calling for submissions from states and territories in the coming weeks to be part of a real world durability trial of a sample batch of London taxis operating in Australian conditions.

“The information and knowledge that we gain from this trial will enable us to make any improvements to suit the Australian market ahead of a staggered Australia-wide release,” he said.

Information regarding the trial can be requested by emailing info@london-taxi.com.au.

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