Hello taxi! These are the icons in city traffic

passenger transport
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Hello taxi! These are the icons in city traffic

Some taxis have shaped the streets of their cities at least as much as their respective skyline. But the market is changing and with it the fleet.

It was a cry that made the front pages of the daily press. When it became known in early March that Mercedes no longer wanted to offer the E-Class as a taxi in the future, a world nearly collapsed for some.

After all, the Stuttgart sedan, just like its predecessors of the W 123 series in light ivory RAL 1015 color, has shaped the image of Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart for decades.

And with it the good reputation of the brand. “Because what has proven its worth in the hard everyday life of the taxi driver for millions of kilometers will also hold up in the private sector,” says Hans-Georg Marmit of the KÜS expert organization on image transfer. He remembers the times when Stuttgart taxi drivers even became development workers and were allowed to drive around the city in pre-series vehicles weeks before they went on sale.

Taxi – more than just a hatchback sedan

It’s all over? It is true that Mercedes is playing down and does not want to say goodbye entirely to commercial passenger transport. However, the days when the E-Class had a market share of more than 80 percent in the driveways of airports and train stations are still far away.

Inexpensive station wagons, inexpensive hybrid sedans from Japan and an impressive number of Teslas have already made their way into the fleet. And even Mercedes is now selling taxi drivers an incredible number of B- or V-class vans instead of the classic hatchback as a taxi version, confirms a spokesperson.

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The Stuttgart limousine as a synonym for taxi? In an international comparison, Mercedes is not alone in this. Some icons in taxi stations around the world have impressed the minds of tourists and business travelers and have long been part of the urban landscape.

I love New York and its yellow cabs

New York is as inconceivable without its yellow cabs as it is without the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty, even if the fleet has been modified from time to time. Just like the Ford Crown Victoria, the legendary Checker Cab only travels as a classic car. The black London Cab belongs to the British capital like Buckingham Palace or Tower Bridge.

Tokyo is firmly associated with the Nissan Cedric. Neither Bangkok nor Manila would be complete without a tuk tuk rattling around the corner. And something would also be missing in Delhi or Mumbai if a Hindustan ambassador based on the old Morris Oxford wasn’t waiting for passengers everywhere there.

Business classics

Some of these vehicles are much more intertwined with the taxi trade than the E-Class – Nissan, for example, still builds the old-fashioned looking Cedric specifically for use as a taxi. He was hired for private businesses as early as the 1960s.

And the London Cab was initially only sold as a taxi. Only since subsidiary Geely LEVC took over the business and unveiled an electric version with a range extender have the Brits put the business on a broader footing.

According to the manufacturer, they have not only created a left-hand drive vehicle for export, but are also building a small van and even a taxi-based recreational vehicle.

The last beetles are also extinct

However, the change that is now bringing about the demise of E-class taxis in Germany has already hit elsewhere, and often much earlier. Checker, the quintessential taxi manufacturer in the United States, disappeared from the market in the 1980s.

In Mexico City, stricter environmental and safety laws have removed the last of tens of thousands of VW Beetles from taxi service. And the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission also made a lasting impact on the street scene ten years ago, choosing the Nissan NV200 minibus as the “Taxi of Tomorrow”.

The end of the upheaval is not in sight. On the contrary, things are really only now starting, at least according to experts like Wolfgang Bernhart of management consulting firm Roland Berger. A boom in autonomous taxis and so-called robo-shuttles is expected. A new generation of means of transport is coming, which will lead to a new type of individual mobility. It draws parallels with the time when the motorized taxi became the car we still know today.

The new vehicles are already on the move

Special vehicles will be needed for this. And these have also been protagonists for several years – first as design studios and now also as prototypes – at trade fairs such as the CES in Las Vegas or the IAA in Munich. While some manufacturers such as VW rely on conventional models and, for example, convert the Buzz ID accordingly, others such as Google’s subsidiary Waymo are developing entirely new models together with Chinese manufacturer Zeekr, which are intended solely for driving as vehicles. robotic.

In light of these serious changes, the Mercedes E-Class performs quite well: because while the taxi model is phased out, the Swabians are working on a new generation of sedan for all other customers. According to a Mercedes spokesperson, it should be ready for a test drive in 2023. Only then exclusively at the dealership and no longer specifically for the taxi rank.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220317-99-563334 / 2

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(Dpa)

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