June 27, 2008
Welcome to the 21st century, Mercedes launches the black cab in London
The launch of the new Vito Taxi by Mercedes at the Society of Motor Manufacturers in central London has signalled the intention of this motoring behemoth to attack the antiquated monopoly held by company's like Maganese Bronze, over the manufacturing of black cabs for the lucrative London market.
Taking three years to develop Mercedes has teamed up with the big hitters in the black cab industry ranging from Grant Davis of the London Cab Drivers Club, Bob Oddie Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, Brian Rice Dial-A-Cab Geoff Riesel Radio-Taxis and Peter Da Costa of KPM and ECV vehicles to develop and launch the vehicle. In essence the 25,000 license black drivers were represented at the launch, some black cab drivers attended to see and "touch" the new Vito and express their concerns.
One member of the "trade" was concerned about the issue of part-exchanging a TX model or old style cab for the Vito, and how would the likes of KPM deal with this. Peter Da Costa KPM's chairman stated "this is an issue we are working on and we are concerned about the residuals of the TX models."
The biggest obstacle Mercedes had to overcome at the launch was to convince the "trade" that the vehicle is not a van, but a custom built vehicle that can provide the 25 point turn of the TXI. Mercedes have designed and built the Low Speed Maneuverability or (LSM) which "Independently steers the rear wheel" this is activated via a button adjacent to the steering wheel and only operates at 5mph, thus preventing cabbies pulling out at speed on the roads of London to do u-turns. With the Mercedes brand and its ability to "refresh" the black cab what the Vito offers is a massive step forward for the black cab trade.
Addison Lee the capitals largest private hire company has already objected to Peter Da Costa the chairman of KPM who will market the vehicle stating that the vehicle may have an adverse effect on the "market". No doubt the Vito is now going to look like a people carrier, but will still have the unique TfL "Hire" and "TAXI" which is unique to the black cab.
In three weeks the new Vito will hit the streets of the capital with two units already sold. Peter Da Costa of KPM has estimated sales to be around 300-600 in the next year. Supply is being controlled to implement the ethos of "evolution not revolution". Or in other words Mercedes want to control the market and will gradually win with a deliberate and well organised campaign to the London "cabbie" and eventually nationally.
Moreover the launch of the Vito should send a message to the black cab trade worth an estimated £600 million that it must move with the changing times and provide greater comfort, fuel efficiency and responsiveness. This is a pivotal stage for the black cab industry in the capital, with the Olympics now only four years away the increase trade that this will generate will either make or break this integral part of the London economy, the "cabbie".
The new Vito will give greater capacity to drivers and speed and will give in the long run a better return's to all the black cab drivers.
Prices start at £29,655.32 for Vito Vito Taxi 111 CDI on the road price is £35,300.00
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