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London's iconic black cabs to be made in China

London's iconic black cabs to be made in China

London's iconic black cabs, long a focus of tourist camera lenses, are to be built outside England for the first time in their 60-year history in a bid to attract new buyers and lower costs.
British manufacturer Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC said Wednesday it had signed a 53 million pound (US$100 million; euro78.51 million) agreement with China's Geely Holding Group to build 20,000 cabs a year in Shanghai.
The deal with Geely, which is not yet legally binding, would give Manganese Bronze its first manufacturing base overseas, access to the Hong Kong-based company's chain of low-cost suppliers and a gateway to the rapidly expanding Chinese car market.
Manganese Bronze plans to begin production in Shanghai in mid-2008 and target customers including taxi companies, hotels and private limousine businesses. The company's research shows that around 1 million taxis and limousines are sold each year in China.
The company currently generates around 90 percent of its sales in Britain, with the rest coming from South Africa and Nigeria.
It manufactures 2,500 black cabs each year at its factory in Milton Keynes, north of London. Rival maker Metrocab manufacturers around 1,500 London taxis at its base in Tamworth, central England.
The first modern black cabs _ similar to today's _ were manufactured in 1948. Famed for their ability to "turn on a sixpence" (about a dime), they must have a roof high enough to accommodate a passenger wearing a bowler hat and an entrance no higher than 15 inches from the ground.
While black remains the most prevalent color, the cabs are now manufactured in other hues, often for advertising purposes.
In London, their drivers are required to pass a stringent test called "The Knowledge," which involves detailed recall of some 25,000 streets.
The high cost of manufacturing and exporting the taxis, with their roomy passenger section and fold-away seats that allow them to carry up to five passengers, has so far hindered any form of serious growth overseas.
Manganese Bronze has previously failed twice to break into the Chinese market. Agreements signed with National Bluestar Corp. in 2004 and with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. in 2002 both fell through.
Under Chinese law, Manganese Bronze needs a local partner through a joint venture or license agreement.
Under the terms of the deal announced Wednesday, Manganese Bronze will take a 37.6 percent stake in the joint venture for 19.85 million pounds (US$37.4 million; euro29.49 million). It will have the right to increase that to 50 percent over the next five years for an additional 6.6 million pounds (US$12.4 million; euro9.78 million).
Geely, the largest privately owned carmaker in China, will sell the cars in Asia and Manganese Bronze will sell them in the rest of the world.
Manganese Chairman Tim Melville-Ross said the deal the joint venture in China "will increase the appeal of our iconic vehicle around the world."


Updated : 2021-04-17 15:42 GMT+08:00