- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

LONDON (Agence France-Presse) — The largest manufacturer of the quintessentially British black taxi yesterday announced plans to make the distinctive-purpose vehicle in China.

British group Manganese Bronze Holdings said it had signed a preliminary agreement with state-owned China National Bluestar Group and Chinese government officials to start a joint venture to manufacture the London icon.

“I am delighted that we have reached this significant milestone,” said Ian Pickering, chief executive of Manganese Bronze, which owns London Taxis International (LTI), responsible for making the renowned vehicle in Britain.

“We are implementing our strategy of growing the group’s business outside its traditional home market,” he said in a statement.

“Bluestar has a proven track record of growing new businesses which, together with the support of the Lanzhou Municipal People’s government, will be central to making a success of the proposed joint venture.”

Lanzhou is the capital of Gansu province, a major transport and industrial center on the Yellow River and a major communication hub for the northwest region of China with a population of 3.1 million.

Bluestar’s headquarters is in Beijing.

LTI currently manufacturers taxis at its plant in Coventry, in central England, where an average of 2,500 roll off the assembly line every year.

The company and smaller rival Metrocab have exported taxis over the years to more than 30 countries, including South Africa, Russia and Japan, where black cabs are popular as wedding limousines.

With sales dipping at home, LTI is looking to expand production abroad.

Chicago’s Yellow Cab Co., which runs one of the biggest taxi fleets in the United States, recently bought 26 of its cabs, while others are headed to operators in California, Florida and Canada.

The bulk of production has stayed in Britain, however, most visibly in London where only LTI and Metrocab vehicles, which typically sell for about $55,700, meet strict “conditions of fitness,” including a 25-foot turning radious.

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