Nissan's taxi deal revived -- for now
N.Y. mayor hints he wants to block contract
After a court ruling in October killed the deal, Nissan is now allowed to move ahead with a $1 billion contract to exclusively supply all the nonhybrid taxis in New York City for the next decade.
But Nissan insiders say they remain wary that the mood in New York has changed since 2011 when then-Mayor Michael Bloom-berg championed the automaker's taxi plan, posing for smiling photos with Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.
For starters, New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has made clear that he never liked the plan and still does not. De Blasio also gives voters the impression that he does not even like Nissan.
Crain's New York Business last week quoted de Blasio publicly hinting that he is looking for a way to block Nissan's contract again.
De Blasio: Never liked plan
"I don't like a lot of things about this," the mayor said of the taxi deal in a press conference last week. "I think this was a broken process on many levels, and there is a potential next step in the legal process and we're certainly examining that option."
Nissan's contract was engineered by Bloomberg before he left office.
According to Crain's New York Business, a sibling publication of Automotive News, de Blasio repeated his criticism of Nissan for doing business in Iran. He also criticized the contract for failing to require the selected taxi manufacturer to create New York jobs by building the vehicles locally.
Nissan's NV200 will be produced in Mexico.
Last October, just days before the taxi venture launched, New York State Supreme Court Justice Shlomo Hagler ruled that Nissan's contract was not legal because the city agency that wrote it was not authorized to do so.
But last week, the State Supreme Court Appellate Division reversed Hagler's decision, putting Nissan back into business. The contract now requires any cab company or driver who buys a new vehicle over the next 10 years to buy a yellow Nissan NV200 taxi, designed to meet city specifications.
The only exception is for purchases of hybrid-powered taxis. A separate court ruling last year granted cab companies that exception.
New York has a diverse fleet of more than 13,000 taxis. Bloomberg's Taxi of Tomorrow vision was to create a single iconic cab to appeal to tourists and provide greater comfort and technology to passengers. The Nissan NV200 uses a roomy back seat, a panoramic skylight and various Internet-friendly electronic features.
"Nissan is pleased with the court's decision to uphold the Taxi of Tomorrow program," Nissan said in a statement. "Given the specific NYC taxi research and development that Nissan conducted -- including crash testing with the installed partition -- we are confident that the Nissan NV200 taxi provides a solution that is optimal in safety, comfort and convenience for passengers and drivers alike."
Political opponents of Bloom-berg, including de Blasio, decried the plan. Various groups of New York taxi companies challenged the contract in court. A key criticism was that the Nissan NV200 is not wheelchair accessible.
But last year at the New York auto show, Nissan showed the taxi modified for wheelchair access through a partnership with vehicle mobility supplier BraunAbility.
You can reach Lindsay Chappell at email@example.com.