Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduce the Nissan NV200 Taxi this month.

Photo credit: Bloomberg
LINDSAY CHAPPELL

Nissan's little taxi contract has star power

Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News.
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Automakers jump at the chance to have a new vehicle appear in a major Hollywood movie. It's free marketing. It's name awareness. It's brand enhancement.

But what if you could guarantee your car a cameo in, say, 100 movies?

That's more or less what Nissan has pulled off in its taxi deal with New York City. Cameos galore.

It has been hard to grasp the enthusiasm Nissan has exuded for winning the bid last year to be New York City's exclusive taxi for 10 years, starting next year. The lifetime of the contract will translate to maybe 40,000 vehicles.

Big deal?

Company executives have explained it in various ways, not least of which was CEO Carlos Ghosn's recent assurance that it is a money-making arrangement, after all.

But there is more to be gained here, notes a smiling Andy Palmer, head of global product planning.

"Think of how many movies you see that are made in New York," the English-accented executive points out. "Think of all the New York street scenes you see, in movies, in television.

"And imagine the streets filled with Nissan taxis."

How many movies and TV shows will be filmed in New York over the next decade? How many of them will show the traffic in the street? How many scenes will be shot with actors seated in the back of a taxi conversing? Eventually, any scene in which the star hails a cab, crosses a Manhattan street, arrives at her apartment in a taxi -- it will all be Nissan's NV200 taxi. Rivers of them, bumper to bumper.

By contract, every new cab put on the street starting next year will be the NV200.

For years to come, movie scenes will be filled with Nissans and the Nissan logo. For decades to come, TV reruns and late-night "old movies" will be reminding viewers of the decade when Nissans filled the streets of New York.

So, 40,000 vehicles over 10 years doesn't sound like a big deal?

Wait until Hollywood is done with it.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.

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