x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Don't cry for the Crown Victoria as New York's taxi fleet is retired

Nissan's NV200 minivan will replace the storied Ford model – or do you mean the Checkers cabs that came before them?

Change is good. That's especially true when it's change for the better; we shouldn't be afraid of change. Just ask your psychiatrist, or your mother.

It's a mantra I like to embrace in life; I just wish other people could, too. That's why I don't understand all the hoopla about New York City deciding to go with a Nissan NV200 minivan as its next "taxi of tomorrow". (My term, not theirs; I've already put a copyright on it. Well, I'll get around to it eventually.)

Why, just this week, my esteemed colleague, Rupert Wright, lamented the eventual loss of the Ford Crown Victoria, which is the staple of the NY taxi fleet now, and its replacement with a minivan.

The Big Apple put out a tender in 2007 for replacements for its fleet of more than 13,000 yellow taxis in the city; out of three contenders, Nissan won the bid with a minivan-styled vehicle that incorporates passenger air bags, charging stations for electronic equipment and a glass moonroof for passengers to gaze at the vastness that is New York. (Ford and a Turkish company, Karsan, were the other two manufacturers in the bidding; both had similar designs).

But there's a worry on many fronts that this new taxi won't have the same style as the Crown Vic; it can't possibly become the next yellow icon of New York because it's just, well, a people mover.

C'mon. You think that big Ford is good looking? In fact, the Crowncro Victoria, though making up the bulk of taxis in the city, is one of nine different models of cars used as taxis there now; by 2018, the city plans to phase out all but the Nissan from its taxi fleet.

Yes, there are wistful memories brought up about Travis Bickle, the crazy cabbie from the film Taxi Driver, or other touchstones of the big yellow cab and its place in the culture of New York. But those touchestones aren't so much referring to the Crown Vics as they are to the old Checker Cabs. Remember those?

Of course you do, if not from personal experience then from the films and photos that include this big American car. Now that's an icon! First entering New York's fleet in the early 1970s, the last Checker Cab to be retired was in 1999; that's almost three decades of service. These classic cars - which were retro when they first entered service - were widely mourned when they finally left the streets. And what replaced them? The Ford Crown Victoria, which had far less room and far less style. And, yet, look what those went on to represent.

The Crown Vic replaced the Checker partly because it had better fuel economy (believe it or not), and the new Nissan van is doing the same to the Ford for the same reason, along with having more room, being handicap-friendly and with the possibility of being retrofitted with an electric drivetrain. Realistically, it's a no-brainer; the time for the Crown Victoria, which first joined the NY taxi fleet in the mid-1990s, is over.

The Nissan may look like a family car meant for groceries and kids, but give it a couple of years. Sarah Jessica Parker will realise it's much easier to step out of it in a minidress, and it will officially be accepted as a part of the New York fabric.