It’s no secret that Nissan plans to sell its compact van in the United States.
But there’s one important element that hasn’t been revealed.
Earlier this year New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission selected a taxi based on Nissan’s NV200 as the only taxi that can operate in the city. Citing congestion, New York sought automaker proposals for a small, fuel-efficient vehicle. Nissan’s front-drive, four-cylinder proposal won the competition. The first deliveries are expected around October 2013.
What wasn’t known is that the U.S. model will not be a clone of the NV200 sold in Europe and Asia. The U.S. model will have a longer wheelbase.
The reason is not the obvious one -- to give passengers more legroom -- although that certainly will be a benefit.
The vehicle is being stretched nearly eight inches because the gasoline tank is being relocated to a safer position.
There was an issue involving “the side pole-impact test,” according to a Nissan source. “So we had to stretch it and move the fuel tank a little bit” rearward, he said. “The Americas will have one kind of NV200 and rest of the world will have the original type.”
The taxi and a cargo model also destined for the United States will be assembled at Nissan’s plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Taxi-related items such as the clear safety panel that separates the driver and the rear passengers are expected to be added on the assembly line. The van will carry a driver and four passengers.
And while there has been speculation that a model holding seven people also is planned, the Nissan source said the automaker has no plans for such a vehicle. The market for a seven-seater is too small, and the cost to re-engineer for safety reasons is too high.
Today, New York City has about 13,200 taxis. Nissan estimates that once the deliveries begin, it will take three to four years to convert the entire New York fleet to Nissan vans.
But the automaker won’t stop there.
Nissan is targeting taxi fleets across North America.