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London Taxi plots $82m Aussie expansion

The new black: A renewed push to introduce iconic, purpose-built London black cabs to major cities across Australia and New Zealand is hoped to help raise standards in the local taxi industry.

Decade-long distribution deal to bring 1000 Brit-built black cabs to Oz, NZ

1 Apr 2016

AUSTRALIAN cities will soon start looking a lot more like London as swarms of the British capital’s iconic black cabs arrive under a £44 million ($A82.2m) deal to import at least 1000 modern-day Hackney Carriages during the first five years of a decade-long agreement.

The exclusive distribution contract between the British-based, Chinese-owned London Taxi Company (LTC) and London Taxi (Aust) Limited in Melbourne will kick off with an initial run of 200 TX4 taxis built at LTC’s Coventry production facility in Britain.

Once the black cabs arrive on these shores, they will be introduced across Australia’s major cities. The distribution agreement also covers New Zealand.

With 21,000 licensed taxis already on Australia’s roads and under pressure from ride-sharing schemes such as Uber, the black cab plan could net a five per cent share of the national taxi fleet if operators decide to replace their converted passenger sedans with purpose-built vehicles.

London Taxi (Aust) is co-owned by Elgan Potter and Ross Prendergast, who took the black cab baton from former London Taxi Co Australia CEO Evan Simeon, who told GoAuto he had sold out of the business.

The new owners appear to be continuing Mr Simeon’s mission of improving taxi industry standards through purpose-built, wheelchair-accessible vehicles, hand-picked drivers who must demonstrate local knowledge and Uber-style smartphone app-based booking and customer feedback systems.

Mr Potter said his company looks forward to “raising standards in the taxi industry in Australia”.

“Nothing symbolises a high-quality professional taxi service like the London taxi, and so we’re delighted to have signed a new 10-year distribution agreement that will deliver hundreds of new TX4s into Australia and New Zealand over the coming years.”

He also described LTC as “an ambitious company with exciting future plans which bodes well for our future business development”.

The switch from Chinese sourcing of TX4 black cabs to British for the Australian market has been welcomed at LTC’s Coventry base, where a £300m investment in product development, research and development facilities and all-new production line is underway under Chinese owner Geely, which also owns Volvo Car Corporation.

Part of the product development is LTC’s work with engine supplier VM Motori to develop a plug-in range-extender version of the TX4 that is due for release in 2018 and will help the company overcome tightening emissions regulations when operating in European cities.

Black cabs were introduced to Australia in December 2013 under a four-year trial in Perth, where 102 of the taxis now ply the streets. In February 2014 the Victorian government also approved the vehicles, waiving the usual yellow livery requirement due to the iconic distinctiveness of the London taxi.

LTC CEO Peter Johansen said the company’s vision is for its taxis to be used in “all major cities around the world”.

“This agreement is another huge step forwards towards that goal. We have enjoyed a good relationship with our outgoing Australian distributors who have helped us to open up the Australian market and we wish them well.

“We now look forward to working with the new owners of London Taxi (Aust) Limited in the coming years as we build up the London taxi brand in cities across Australia and New Zealand.”

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