NEW YORK -- The competition to manufacture New York City's next official taxicab has been narrowed to three automakers who each came up with similar tall, boxy designs that are more like minivans than traditional sedans.
The finalists announced Monday are Ford Motor Co., Nissan North America Inc. and Karsan USA. Karsan is a Turkish company that makes cars for such brands as Fiat and Hyundai.
The New York City yellow taxi fleet of more than 13,200 taxis is now made up of 16 vehicle models from nine different manufacturers, including nearly 4,000 hybrids. The anchor of the fleet is Ford's Crown Victoria, which was recently discontinued.
None of the vehicles on the road now was originally designed to be used as a taxi, which typically drives 70,000 miles a year and has its doors slammed 60 to 70 times a day. All were existing automobiles that were then specially outfitted by garages to meet the city's requirements for cabs.
For the next official taxi to replace the Crown Victoria, City Hall wanted to change that.
"Although the city has long set standards for our taxis, we have never before worked with the auto industry to design a taxicab especially for New York City – that is, until now," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Of the three submissions, the Nissan design most resembles a traditional minivan. The Karsan proposal looks a bit like a Smart Car and the Ford submission evokes a sort of European ambulance.
The city declined to make the three finalist proposals available Monday because the information in them is still proprietary. Officials provided photographs but scant details about the proposed vehicles, their features or potential fuel efficiencies.
Taxi commissioner David Yassky briefly described Nissan's design as the roomiest and the most ambitious in terms of sustainability. The automaker's proposal "aspires to a fully electric vehicle at some point," Yassky said.
Yassky said Ford is a trusted partner with its history making Crown Victoria taxis and other models, and Karsan offered a proposal with an eye-pleasing design, roomy interior and accessibility.
Earlier this year the Taxi and Limousine Commission put out a request for proposals for the exclusive right to make the taxi of tomorrow.
The city asked all proposals to consider the roominess of the interior, driver comfort, environmental impact, maintenance and repair costs and exterior design.
It also asked for ideas to update the partition that divides the driver from the passengers.
The three finalists were chosen from seven submissions.
New Yorkers can go online, see the three finalist designs and vote on features they want to see in the next official taxi – choosing from such possibilities like sunroofs and electrical outlets to charge computers and cell phones.
The three finalists have been asked to submit their best and final offering within the next month.
A winning design will be announced early next year; the chosen automaker will have the right to exclusively provide the standard taxicab for 10 years.
Officials expect the new vehicle to be on the road by the fall of 2014.
---- The Huffington Post: Here are images for the three proposals: