It’s been a tough couple of years for the iconic Hackney carriage. In short, the London Taxi Corporation – which has been manufacturing the Black Cab for decades – was taken over by a Chinese company called Manganese Bronze Holdings in the late 2000s. The buy-out was too little, too late (or too ambitious, depending on who you ask) and cab sales continued to slide month after month. Black Cabs built by Manganese Bronze were marred with reliability issues such as a faulty steering rack that took literally months to fix, and Manganese uncovered an accounting error left a £3.9 million hole in its accounts. Fed up, taxi drivers in the UK increasingly turned to vans manufactured by Mercedes-Benz and, later, Nissan, which put the final nail in the company’s coffin.
Manganese Bronze Holdings screeched to a halt when it filed for bankruptcy in October of 2012 and laid off hundreds of workers. China’s Geely – which also owns Volvo – stepped in and saved the Black Cab by purchasing Manganese after several weeks of negotiations, though it should be mentioned that Geely already owned a 20-percent stake in the company so it was at least as interested in saving its own capital as it was in keeping the Hackney carriage out of the history books. For £11.04 million (about $17.5 million in 2013 dollars), Geely got access to London Taxi Corporation’s full stock of unsold vehicles, all of its intellectual property, its tools and machines and its factory in Coventry, England.
While it doesn’t have the monopoly that it enjoyed for decades, the TX4 is alive and, relatively speaking, it’s doing pretty alright. We caught up with a brand new example last week during one of the press days of the biennial Shanghai Motor Show. Our Chinese is limited to saying “hi”, “thanks” and “beer” but a quick look at the brochure that Geely gave us reveals that the cab is powered by a 2.4-liter turbodiesel engine that makes 147 horsepower and a rather underwhelming 147 lb-ft. of torque. The VM Motori oil-burner that the TX4 was launched with a few years ago in the United Kingdom generated 180 lb-ft.
Visually, the TX4 has changed very little in the past few years. Buyers can order it in black, gold (as pictured below), red, silver, white, light blue, dark blue and light gray. The TX4 isn’t exactly common on the streets of Shanghai, where 95 percent of taxis are Volkswagen Santanas, but the handful that we came upon were painted gold.