In 2014, Nissan unveiled what they hoped would be the new face of taxis in London. The vehicle was re-designed to make it instantly recognisable as one of the capital's iconic black cabs.
Based on the company's already successful multi-purpose NV200 platform, the vehicle was first unveiled as a bold and exciting new vision for the famous London Hackney Carriage in August 2012. In response to feedback from the London Mayor's office, Transport for London (TfL) and other key organisations which had put their backing behind the new taxi, Nissan redesigned the vehicle to reflect the iconic nature of the traditional black cab.
Nissan's newly redesigned taxi was developed for London, in London, by Nissan Design Europe (NDE) in Paddington, the same design center responsible for the Qashqai and Juke. The new taxi was planned to be launched in December 2014 with a modern, clean, 1.6-litre petrol engine equipped with an automatic gearbox. Furthermore, Nissan acknowledged the launch a zero emission electric version of the NV200 taxi just a year later in 2015.
Nissan already had a rich pedigree in the London taxi market - its 2.7-litre TD27 diesel engine was fitted to the FX4 "Fairway" and TX1 black cabs during the 1980s and '90s and gained a reputation for reliability and durability. In developing the NV200 Taxi for London, Nissan ensured that it adhered to the strict TfL regulations governing Hackney Carriages, including the required 25-foot (7.6-meter) turning circle.
The NV200 cab for London planned to become part of Nissan's global taxi program, which also encompassed New York, Barcelona and Tokyo. The London version's design was bespoke, reflecting the rich heritage and status of London's black cabs.
Among the specific changes that were made to the front of the NV200 taxi were:
Round headlamps and a re-modeled grille mirroring the traditional black cab "face"
LED lighting to improve visibility of the traditional taxi sign
Completely new front bumper panels.
Design Excellence Manager at NDE, Darryl Scriven, said in 2014: "Having already overcome the unique technical challenges presented by the development of a new Hackney Carriage for London ahead of our launch of the vehicle in August 2012, we turned our attention to making the vehicle look the part. The Mayor's office and taxi drivers were very keen that we maintain the character of the Hackney Carriage, making it something that people in the city can be proud of.
"The main challenges were concerned with making sure customers can easily recognize it as a taxi. Being in London, we were able to go out and talk to cabbies about what was important to them as well as look at the vehicle from a customer's viewpoint. It's unusual for us to be able to work on something as bespoke as this, specifically for one location in the world and we are very proud to have been asked to do so."
Andy Palmer, Chief Planning Officer and Executive Vice President, Nissan Motor Corporation, said: "Since we launched our Taxi for London in August 2012, we have worked closely with the Mayor's office and associated stakeholders and interested parties to ensure that Nissan's new cab not only raises the bar for both driver and passenger, but is also as instantly recognizable as its legendary forebears.
"Alongside this, our engineers at Nissan Technical Centre Europe in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, have continued work on the cab, running real-world trials on the streets of London."
Nissan intended to put the NV200 Taxi for London on sale in the Capital in December 2014. From launch, the new taxi would have been available with a 1.6-liter gasoline engine equipped with an automatic gearbox. Compared to current diesel London taxis, this engine was far cleaner, with lower levels of NOx and particulates.
Nissan franchised dealer group, Glyn Hopkin, was appointed as the exclusive retailer to sell the Nissan NV200 Taxi for London from a purpose-built, ultra-modern showroom facility based in Canary Wharf.
Nissan also forged ahead with its pioneering work in the sustainable motoring field, developing a 100 percent electric taxi – the e-NV200 – which it aimed to have on the streets of London years ahead of the Mayor's target of 2020 for the development of a zero-emissions taxi.
So what happened to this once promising vehicle?
Quite simply, the policies changed and Nissan pulled the plug. Speaking years later at the launch of its e-NV200 van battery upgrade launch in 2017, Nissan Europe Chairman Paul Willcox, spoke to Auto Express on the reasons for the last minute u-turn: “The issue was that the cost of development was quite high. We were committed to do something if we had the opportunity to be clear in what we needed to do to take that market – the market isn’t massive. We didn’t think it was financially viable to do that.”
Willcox added: “If there’s a clear commitment [towards electrification] then of course, but we can’t do it on half promises – it has to be on policy.”
Since then, Nissan are now represented in the taxi market in the form of the Nissan Dynamo taxi which launched in 2019. Dynamo, a UK-based vehicle manufacturer, unveiled the first 100% electric, zero emission, ‘Hackney Carriage’ black cab for London after it had been officially approved by TfL.