Less than two years after Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Geely Automobile rescued the 115-year-old maker of London’s distinct black taxi cabs, the cars are set to hit the Shanghai streets on the country’s National Day. But instead of the ubiquitous black color of the so-called hackney carriages the Chinese versions that will ply the streets, starting Oct. 1, of China’s financial center will be gold.
Geely announced Wednesday that the first 200 of the domestically produced TX4 taxis are in the final stages of production, with 50 poised for delivery to Qiangsheng Taxi Co., one of the city’s biggest cab operators. Fares will likely cost a little more than those of existing cabs, according to local media reports, at a starting rate of 19 yuan (a little over $3) compared to 14 yuan. The per-kilometer rate will also be a priced a bit higher.
“They will have [elderly and disabled] accessibility fittings and take bookings mainly through dispatch systems to carry passengers with special requirements,” the Shanghai Daily reported Wednesday.
No reasons have been given for the color switch. Yellow is regarded in China as one of the five “superior colors” representing the elements, and gold has Buddhist associations as well. And as in many other cultures, the color of gold is associated with wealth. But there’s likely a more simple explanation: Qiangsheng Taxi Co. has gold-colored Volkswagens in its fleet.
Geely, which also owns Swedish automaker Volvo, bought 20 percent of the British designer and developer of city cabs, Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC, in 2006. Then last year Geely aquired the rest of the business after a costly recall of 400 cars for a steering problem nearly tipped the company into bankruptcy. Manganese Bronze does business globally as The London Taxi Co. Geely paid $18 million for the British taxi maker and saved 107 manufacturing jobs in Coventry, U.K., where the company is based and where the vehicles are made for the local and global market. The gold-colored Chinese versions are made at one of Geely's Chinese plants.
“Despite its recent difficulties, we have long believed that the company and the Black Cab have huge potential,” Li Shufu, Geely chairman, said in a statement announcing the deal in February 2013. The company sells the cars globally, most recently announcing it would deliver 500 TX4s in Azerbaijan and 200 for the Saudi Arabian market.