Geely aims to electrify black cabs
Geely, the Chinese automaker that co-owns the company that produces black London taxis, has met UK government officials about bringing electric-powered cabs to the UK capital.
“One of our ideas is to convert London taxis into electric,” Li Shufu, the company’s chairman, told the Financial Times. “We are doing research on this project.”
Geely owns about 23 per cent of Manganese Bronze, the Coventry-based producer of black London cabs, and 51 percent of a Shanghai-based joint venture with the UK company that will produce the cars in China starting this December.
Mr. Li said that he had discussed the idea of electric taxis in London with Boris Johnson, the city’s mayor, at the Beijing Olympic games in August. Mr. Johnson supports the idea.
Manganese Bronze this year signed a research and development agreement with Tanfield Electric Vehicles to develop all-electric plug-in taxis. Manganese Bronze’s share price has slumped in recent weeks after hundreds of its TX4 cabs were taken off the streets following a series of engine fires.
Geely, like China’s other rising automakers, is developing its own plug-in hybrid and electric cars, including an electric version of its Panda city car that it may seek to sell in Europe. Mr. Li said developing electric vehicle technology would be a major strategic focus for the company in future.
Geely’s plan to build London taxis in Shanghai is one of a string of investments by Chinese companies seeking to apply low-cost production to iconic overseas assets.
Rival carmaker SAIC recently relaunched production of MG TF sports cars in Longbridge and makes the Roewe brand of cars in China largely based on tools and designs formerly owned by bankrupt MG Rover.
LTI Shanghai Automobile, the JV, plans to sell the Shanghai-built cabs to taxi operators, hotels, and other buyers in China and overseas, with a view eventually to building 10,000 vehicles a year.
The Chinese operation will also supply parts produced at a lower cost to LTI’s flagship operation in the UK.