Chevrolet hopes a charity fund-raiser in New York and San Francisco will help cast the Venture minivan in a new role as a taxi.
Three weeks ago, Chevrolet put a Venture taxi on the streets of the two cities to raise money for breast cancer research. The minivans were customized for General Motors' Concept: Cure by designer Nicholas Graham, the creator of the Joe Boxer clothing line.
The taxis will operate until March 31; all fares from the taxis will go to Concept: Cure.
Dan Keller, Chevrolet brand manager for the Venture, said the charity project will be a high-profile durability test for the Venture.
Keller wants to sell Ventures to taxi companies to increase public exposure to the minivan and boost sales in the process.
However, jumping into New York's taxi market isn't easy. Chevrolet needs approval from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which has not allowed sliding-door minivans to operate as taxis. 'The belief was it simply wasn't what the customer was used to,' said Allan Fromberg, a spokesman for the commission.
Currently the city's minivan taxi fleet of 600 is dominated by the past-generation Honda Odyssey and its sister vehicle, the Isuzu Oasis. Both have four hinged doors.
The commission has granted an exception to the Joe Boxer Venture, the first New York cab to have sliding doors. Fromberg said Chevrolet needs to prove consumers in New York want minivan taxis with sliding doors.
Through September of this year, Chevrolet sold 77,440 Ventures, up 1.5 percent from the same period in 1998. Venture sales for September were 7,407, the best September for the vehicle and up 14.6 percent from September 1998.
Chevrolet sells about 23 percent of its Ventures into fleets.