Nissan to Show ‘Taxi of Tomorrow’ at NYC Expo, Future Now in Question

By Jacob Brown | October 25, 2011
Nissan is ramping up its showcase premier for the forthcoming Nissan NV200 “Taxi of Tomorrow” in New York City. Over the five-day expo, the brand that won the Big Apple’s taxicab contract will have an interactive display at Broadway and Fifth Avenue to introduce new features in the city’s new people-mover. “Nissan’s NV200 Taxi will be the first taxi in the world to offer new and iconic features developed for, and with, New Yorkers,” said Joe Castelli, the vice president of Nissan Fleet and Commercial Vehicles, in a statement. “The Taxi of Tomorrow Design Expo will offer a first look at these one-of-a kind amenities, which include increased legroom, plenty of interior lighting, and materials that reduce odors and germs while supporting sustainability.” Unfortunately, one of those amenities isn’t wheelchair accessibility, and it has some of New York’s population feeling miffed. As we reported last week, not having the widespread availability of wheelchair transport could be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A lawsuit has been filed against New York City over the next-generation taxi, and mayor Michael Bloomberg has publicly dismissed the need for more wheelchair-ready vehicles than the 231 cabs available out of the fleet of 12,237 taxis around the city. "If all the cabs were accessible, then people who don't need to have a wheelchair, whether they are fully mobile or not, the suspension is a lot worse and it's harder to get in and out and pay the cab driver," Bloomberg said.
Yet, Bloomberg’s outer borough plan has proposed adding 569 more wheelchair-accessible taxis. Of those, Fred Drasner, the chairman of Florida-based Vehicle Production Group, says he has a vehicle to fill the role of a taxicab carryall that no other competitor can match. Called the MV-1, VPG’s first product is a squarish vehicle built for utility over style. It was just approved last Thursday to go on sale to fleet owners in New York City, and Drasner says it already has orders in that market.
Boasting a truck-like body-on-frame design and a 4.6-liter V-8 licensed from Ford instead of the lighter, more fuel-efficient unibody and four-cylinder arrangement of the Nissan, Drasner says durability is the key to his product. He said that with optional middle-row jumper seats, the MV-1 can carry both wheelchair-bound customers and up to four adults, depending on how it’s set up. Confident in his product, Drasner says that he’s “happy to let the market decide which product it likes.” While VPG has already made inroads with serving the wheelchair-bound customers, Drasner said a lot could change on how the court ruling goes, and he expects the national taxicab market to open up to competition. Sources: Nissan, NY1 News, New York Daily News, VPG