A new taxi for London
By Philip Crewe
London is one of the world’s major design and culture capitals, but Nissan’s new London taxi shows how little the significance of this is understood.
London is a pioneering city and it needs to stay this way if it is to continue to be relevant in the cutthroat world of fashion/design/culture.
Buildings like the Shard, Gherkin and (before them) the BT tower are significant stakes-in-the-ground confirming London’s progressive attitude; complimenting, but not eclipsing London’s older landmarks. Equally important are London's vehicles; the black cab and the Routemaster. Thomas Heatherwick’s brilliant new red bus straddles progressiveness with tradition perfectly, it symbolises London at its very best (and is a great source of envy to Parisians and Berliners).
In contrast to the success of the new Routemaster, New York’s 2012 competition to replace its own transport icon – the Yellow Taxi, ended in farce and in a typically American way, in litigation. The competition was won by Nissan, but their 'Taxi of Tomorrow' quickly found itself detoured by a combination of technical shortcomings, city hall bumbling, and plain old political hardball. So, with no clear winner, it now seems that the iconic three box yellow cab is set to be replaced by a myriad of lightly modified cars and vans, painted yellow.
In an attempt to recoup some of the losses Nissan made in New York, they have offered up their NV200 vans as replacements for London’s aging fleet of FX/TX black cabs. In response to feedback from key London organisations, Nissan claims they have made adjustments to the design in order "to better reflect the iconic nature of the traditional black cab.” In reality, this seems to amount to little more than a badly restyled front end.
If London does decide that a black panel van with round headlights and an oversized chrome grill is enough to replace the wonderful FX/TX taxis then why not go the whole way and (like Venice) turn the entire city into a pastiche London theme park? It already has ticketed entry (if you’re driving) and an extensive network of underground roller coasters…
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