Yesterday, nearly a year after The London Taxi Company (LTC) halted production of its iconic black cabs and six months after the business was bought out by China’s Geely Group, the auto manufacturer got back to building cars.
Production of London’s iconic black cabs was halted last fall, much to the chagrin of traditional anglophiles. The company issued an emergency recall related to a disastrous steering fault in its vehicles, which made it difficult for drivers to properly maneuver their cars. The recall, hardly LTC’s first—LTC was forced to recall 5,000 cars in 2008 after a number of them caught fire—compounded the carmaker’s existing problems. The Manganese Bronze, which began making black cabs back in 1948, hadn’t turned a profit in six years. That’s partly because the UK government gave London cab drivers permission in 2008 to drive the Mercedes Vito, which broke Manganese’s longtime monopoly.
But Geely, which owns Volvo, swooped in and bought LTC in February for £11.4 million ($18.03 million) and made big improvements. It streamlined LTC’s manufacturing facilities in Coventry while creating 66 new jobs that boosted its workforce to 170. The vehicles, purported to be the most sophisticated cars ever produced by the company, promise better quality; Geely has committed £150 million to the development of new taxi models, including ultra-low emission versions.
The company is hopeful that the UK will continue to embrace its iconic taxi cars. “We are on target to deliver over 200 vehicles this month into London alone. Consequently we are going to increase our UK production and we will be building an additional 75 vehicles this year on top of the 424 that we had originally planned,” vice president of UK operations for LTC Peter Johansen told the Daily Mail.
LTC’s ambitions extend beyond London. The business plans to sell almost 2,000 new black cabs globally in its first year; it has already won export contracts to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
More than 130,000 black cabs have been built at the Coventry facility over the past 60 years. If LTC has its way, thousands more will be built in the years ahead.