the Karsan V1, with just about everything going for it, really would be the 'Taxi of Tomorrow'
Although the very modern, beautifully-designed, extraordinarily-roomy and fully-accessible Karsan V1 was hailed by New Yorkers (65.5 percent of those polled) as their favorite "Taxi of Tomorrow", the city ended up choosing the least popular entry, the hideous Nissan NV 200, to which Motor Trend's Frank Morris referred, somewhat generously, as "a dorky looking van that's being converted to taxi duty".
New York City initiated the competition in 2007 to find a replacement for the unmourned, unlovely, and antediluvian Ford Crown Victoria. Its Dearborn manufacturer had announced that it would discontinue the vehicle by 2012; otherwise, it's likely we would still be enduring its discomforts and its aesthetic and environmental assaults decades from now, even though it was based on an automobile platform first introduced in 1978.
As it had with the proposals it sought and received for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site, the city ended up ignoring the results of its own vaunted "Taxi of Tomorrow" contest: In the end it settled on the one design most people didn't like; it was also the design which least satisfied the requirements of the commission.
While the Nissan was certainly the most conservative response to an important challenge, in the end it will prove to have been the most impractical choice, and therefore the most radical, given the parameters of the search: Of the three finalists it responds the least well to current taxi needs, and its environmental and accessibility inadequacies, among others, will look be even more grotesque as time goes by. In picking the barely-adequate, ungainly and unlovely Nissan "they" struck out once more, embarrassing New Yorkers who actually care about the city's ability to get things right (both better than and before others do, if possible). And then there are the aesthetics: The brutal, armored-truck lines of the obscene American SUV fetish object seems to have inured even certain New Yorkers to the gross plug-ugliness of this vehicle.
For what it's worth (and in a supposedly post-industrial and post-Wall Street world i think it's worth a lot) the Karsan is the only vehicle of the three finalists which would have been manufactured in the U.S. To be specific, it would have been assembled in the home country, Brooklyn (Sunset Park).
In an article today, the New York Times doesn't seem quite persuaded by Nissan or the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission that a hired French designer can tart it up enough with a special horn, speckled flooring, and altered paint color to get us to think of the bulky Nissan NV 200 as their promised "Taxi of Tomorrow". I don't believe New Yorkers, or at least those paying attention, will buy it, but then I think of those junky Crown Victorias and, more recently, the cramped hybrid sedans, and ridiculous climb-up SUVs we're dealing with now.
I'll leave the French Designer with the last word, pulled from the Times piece, where it is the last word:
"New Yorkers are so used to their cab rides," [Francois Farion of Nissan] said, "that they sometimes forget how it could be better."
the Karsan: roll up your chair, bike, stroller, or hand truck from a built-in ramp on either side
The Ford Europe's Transit Connect is a very decent "Taxi of Today" and some are NYC rides now*
The dumpy, malformed Nissan NV 200, introduced in 2007, is barely even the "Taxi of Yesterday"
the one seen here sighted at Madison Square last October