In 2009, New York City officials invited auto manufacturers and designers to compete in the Taxi of Tomorrow contest. Essentially, the winning design, selected by the city, would become the New York City Taxi for the next ten years. Mayor Bloomberg and his team made one major error that can still be corrected: the specs should require the vehicle to be Made in the United States and require 30 miles per gallon in city driving.
Many years ago nearly all New York taxis were made in the United States. The ubiquitous Yellow taxi was a Checker taxi. The Checker, particularly the 1956-82 A8/Marathon, remains the most famous taxi cab in the United States. It was manufactured in Kalamazoo, Mich.
After the Checkers demise, the Ford Crown Victoria became the most common New York taxi. One problem with the Crown Vic is that it was manufactured in Canada. Another is that it gets poor gas mileage.
Beginning in 2006 another Ford, the Ford Escape Hybrid, started coming to New York City to begin taxi duty. These bright yellow Ford Escape Hybrid taxis are now commonplace in Manhattan. Many have mileage in excess of 175,000 miles and have yet to face major mechanical problems. At 175,000 miles, Ford estimates that a hybrid has saved over 2,915 gallons of gas. Thats some pretty good pocket change, nearly $10,000. In fact, Escape Hybrid taxi drivers report saving more than $6,000 on gas each year.
In early 2005, San Francisco was the first city to feature gas-electric hybrid-powered taxi cabs. The city chose Ford Escape Hybrid. Later that year, New York City added a small fleet of Escape Hybrid taxis based on the New York City Councils decision to pass the Clean Air Taxis Act. Chicago and Austin have also introduced hybrids into their burgeoning taxi fleets.
Today, there are 288 Escape Hybrids in taxi service throughout New York City, and drivers are reporting that the hybrids are a great choice for taxi use. The Ford Escape Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient SUV, EPA-rated at 34 miles per gallon in city driving, with room for five passengers and piles of luggage.
On Nov. 15, the New York City Taxi and Limousine commission unveiled the Taxi of Tomorrows three finalists: The Ford Transitconnect, a Nissan model and Turkeys Karsan Otomotiv. New Yorkers can vote on features they want in the winning design by logging onto the Taxi of Tomorrow website.
As it turns out, Fords design, the Transitconnect, is actually manufactured in Turkey. Thats right, not a single design in the finals was manufactured in the United States. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, The yellow cab is one of the most iconic symbols of New York City. One would think that folks in New York City would want an American company to design and manufacture one of the most iconic symbols of New York City.
Mayor Bloomberg should consider renewing the competition and invite all car companies, requiring them to make the taxi of the future in the United States. Another alternative: cancel the competition and require taxis to meet higher fuel efficiency standards, such as 30 miles per gallon in the city, plus be made in the USA. If this were done, the Ford Escape Hybrid would remain New York Citys favorite taxi.
Joel Joseph is chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation. Email him at Chairman@MadeUSAFdn.org.
From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2011
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