Last night I attended the official unveiling of the Nissan NV200 at Skylight West on the West Side of Manhattan, arriving just in time to hear NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduce the yellow cube before he was whisked out of the building by his security detail. Bloomberg used the opportunity of the Nissan NV200 announcement to brag about the fact that the city of New York has fewer traffic deaths today than it ever has since the city began keeping records of such things back in 1910. “Nissan wasn’t around then,” said the mayor. “In fact, automobiles weren’t around then, either.” Uh, Mr. Mayor, the first New York Auto Show was held in 1900!
Anyway, Bloomberg also talked about how the Nissan NV200 was sure to become an icon of the city. To that point, I asked a senior Nissan official what plans they had to publicize the NV200 taxi in, say, movies and television. He assured me that they are most anxious to do so, because once the NV200 becomes known as the official taxi of New York, other cities around the world will, in theory, also clamor to make it their own official taxi.
This morning, I telephoned Automobile Magazine’s Design Editor, Robert Cumberford, who reminded me that although the Nissan NV200 is the result of the Taxi of Tomorrow project that was launched only a few years ago, he and his colleague Mitch Sayres presented a schematic of an ideal taxicab in the August 1961 issue of Industrial Design Magazine. Here’s how Cumberford describes it, this half-century later:
“Damn near every taxicab [proposal] since then has been based on that article. Everybody knows about it. It was a front-wheel-drive modular vehicle. We imagined a reverse Corvair driveline. The driver’s cab sat on top of the engine. The passenger compartment sat on a platform that stretched from the engine module to the rear wheels’ module. The passenger cabin can be taken off in two minutes and replaced with a clean one. You could have civil emergency, ambulance bodies, etc., and pop them on. It would have been really easy to make a car in NYC. There are foundries, presses, forging mills. At that time they were trying to figure out what to do with the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which could have been used as a production site.
“What they really need in New York,” Cumberford concluded, “is a better class of taxicab drivers.”
Among the unique features of the Nissan NV200 Taxi are sliding doors, for easier entry and exit; a glass roof to show off the city's skyline; a "low-annoyance" horn, which is quieter and has an exterior light to snitch on overzealous cabbies; antimicrobial seats and an odor-neutralizing headliner; and USB ports for charging gadgets.
The Nissan NV200 is said to offer more luggage space than today's taxis. It also will be more fuel efficient than current cabs thanks to a 2.0-liter inline-four engine -- compare that to the thirsty V-6 and V-8 engines employed by the ever-popular Ford Crown Victoria taxi. Drivers of the new taxi also get features like navigation and a backup camera.
Not enough innovation for you? Nissan also is considering an electric version of the NV200 Taxi, and will distribute Leaf electric cars to taxi firms in order to evaluate whether electric propulsion would work for taxi duty.
For more on the Nissan NV200 Taxi, including videos, the latest photos, and more information, click here to visit our 2012 New York Auto Show homepage.