Chrysler is advertising its cars as “Imported from Detroit,” but soon you could be riding around in a vehicle that’s imported from Brooklyn.
Turkish automaker Karsan is competing against Ford and Nissan to win a contract with New York City to design and build the "Taxi of Tomorrow,” which will replace the soon-to-be-discontinued Ford Crown Victoria as the go-to car for the city’s yellow cab fleet. In an effort to win favor with local officials, the company is now pledging to build a factory to assembly the V1 in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, and hire union employees to do it.
According to Karsan, the new plant would be located at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal -- a port facility with access to rail lines -- and have a capacity of 10,000 units annually, more than enough to supply taxi operators with the 3,000 new vehicles required each year. The company hopes to sell additional V1s to other municipalities and on the retail market.
The Karsan proposal features a futuristic minivan-like design with a fuel efficient, rear-mounted four-cylinder engine, wheelchair accessibility and an all-glass roof tailor-made for sightseeing in a vertical city like New York. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has voiced his support, citing the popularity of the V1 in a recent online poll and adding that “bringing Karsan to Brooklyn would create up to 800 new jobs, right here, right now. The jobs of today can be provided by the Taxi of Tomorrow.”
Nevertheless, the decision is in the hands of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which is expected to announce a winner sometime this year. For his part, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is more interested in getting the right taxi for the job, rather than whether or not it creates jobs for his constituents, telling WOR radio “You’ve got to look at how much experience the companies have in building cars. What do you do if after two years the wheels start falling off?”
In an odd coincidence, the vehicle that Ford’s proposal is based on – the popular Transit Connect – is built at a factory in Koaceli, Turkey, but the automaker has announced plans to begin manufacturing it in the United States starting in 2012. The small commercial van is already in service as a taxi in Chicago, Boston and several smaller cities throughout New England. A full-size van known as the NV is the basis of Nissan’s entry in the competition, and it will be manufactured at the company’s plant in Canton, Mississippi later this year.
Although it has been decades since auto manufacturing has taken place within city limits, the Big Apple was home to several car companies early in the age of the automobile, including Brewster & Company. The luxury coachbuilder operated in the Long Island City section of Queens until 1935 when The Great Depression drove it into bankruptcy. Until it was unofficially replaced by the Crown Victoria and Chevrolet Caprice in 1982, the iconic Checker Taxi was imported from Kalamazoo, Michigan.