By on April 15, 2010

TTAC commentator VanillaDude asks: “So? What would a 2011 Checker look like?”  If VPG has their way, it’ll be this, their MV-1, supposedly going into production in October of this year. Well, it may, or not, be a legitimate Checker successor, but its still a hell of a lot easier on eyes compared to what they were planning to build before they touched it up a bit and rounded off the edges. Here comes, so be ready:

Ouch. Sure makes the revised version look almost palatable. The MV-1 (site here) is the latest in a long series of concepts to capture the specially-designed taxi, livery, and mobility market the Checker once owned. But its chance may not be any better than all the other ones. It’s just too hard to compete with the economics of mass produced vehicles, especially since new ones are coming (or here already) that will do the job admirably, like the Ford Transit Connect.

Unlike the MV-1’s heavy body and Ford 4.6 V8 drive train, the Transit Connect Taxi uses the gas, CNG or LPG in its 2.0 Liter four. And it has the perfect tall-roof walk-in height to put even a Checker Marathon to shame. If Ford were really serious, they’d put the Escape’s hybrid drive train in the Connect, but that would be a pricey undertaking. Even without, it’s the most compelling taxi concept in a long time, and it’s for real.

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28 Comments on “Tomorrow’s Checker?...”

  • avatar

    They are being serious. That’s why they didn’t do something that would have added too many dollars to the Connect’s price. Or at least that’s my guess. I do like the Transit Connect.

  • avatar

    I hope like hell that Checker includes some sort of flex fuel & hybridizing technology!

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think that hybrid tech is really ready for high volume taxi work. These things need to be really bullet and idiot proof. Flex fuel would make sense, and probably some form of start/stop tech would be good. The drive train should be optimized for max power low on the curve for good maneuverability in urban settings.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes it needs to be idiot and bullet proof, OTOH, taxi service with its frequent starts/stops makes the most of a hybrid system with regen braking and the ability to move short distances on juice alone. Many cities are phasing in hybrid buses, so perhaps the taxi industry can learn from that experience.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey clutch, I see a lot of Prius taxi’s out there, even this one in my little town:

      And supposedly they have made 300k miles without major trauma.

      Seems like a hybrid makes sense for cars that seem to spend a lot of time idling or in stop-and-go.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Having known a fleet owner or two in the past, they want bullet proof, not high tech. A 2 liter 4 cyl diesel would be more like it.

    • 0 avatar

      Lots of Camry Hybrid taxis in the Boston area. A hybrid does make sense for heavy duty city driving.

    • 0 avatar

      NYC is using a lot of Hybrid cabs of all makes. It’s part of the Mayor’s PlaNYC program and there have been no catastrophic failures. When overhaul time comes around, we will see. Most cab repair facilities have rebuilt ready to swap engines and the like for very fast turn around times. This is where the hybrid powertrain may become a liability.

      There is a law requiring the retirement of NYC cabs after a certain time and mileage after which they are sold for use elsewhere. If this type of cab can last to that point, that may be enough. There is some chatter about this on some Panther fanboi forums, but judging from some of the posters’ tags I question the validity and bias of the source. This law came into being in NYC because the condition of the cabs were abysmal. Half a million miles was not uncommon. The body would be repaired after multiple wrecks and filled with bondo. To eliminate the run forever mentality, the cap was born. I am not sure what the time and mileage requirements are but I think it is every few years and 300K. Have you ever been in a cab that didn’t have its check engine light on?

    • 0 avatar

      @clutchcargo: Are you kidding? A hybrid system like the ones in place now are PERFECT for taxi duty. I don’t think they make sense as a private vehicle, unless of course, you live in a highly congested area.

      I can understand that fleet owners would prefer something a lot less complicated (like CNG), but once hybrid drivetrains become truly inexpensive, I don’t see why they wouldn’t switch over.

  • avatar

    TTAC on the MV-1

  • avatar

    I like the Transit Connect taxi shown above. Ingress/egress definitely looks easier (especially when compared to the Prius and Corolla taxis I see in the Seattle area).

    As for the MV-1, at least it looks a little better than the earlier pics suggested. It still looks like it’d be more expensive than the Transit Connect just based on economies of scale.

    I’d love to see the old Checker Marathon brought back with an updated drivetrain. Those were cool looking cabs (in my opinion).

    • 0 avatar

      I avoid NYC when I can, but the last few trips my cab rides have been in Ford Escapes equipped with a plexiglass divider that left the front passenger seat available (four passenger seat belts that way). Honestly, easier ingress/egress than the Crown Vic and I’m sure it goes farther on a gallon of gas.

      I hope Ford is only at the beginning of what could be a very fruitful exploitation of the Transit Connect platform. I think to be a decent NYC taxi it will need bigger rims/tires (you can take u-turn over curbs all day in a RWD Crown Vic, but I think the FWD Connect with little wheels would not last long. +1 on putting the hybrid drive train in it.

    • 0 avatar

      I heard a radio show about the first Ford Escapes being taken out of taxi service in San Francisco (after 300k miles). Apparently there’s a LAW there that sets the maximum mileage. Cabbies weren’t too happy, the Escapes were reliable and burned little fuel in the hilly terrain.

  • avatar

    I think VPG and Carbon Motors ought to merge.

  • avatar

    I wish them luck. But it is a tough market to crack. One that wants rock bottom prices and indestructability, with low operating costs. Good luck with that. My occasional weekends in Chicago I yearn for a comfortable easy access Taxi.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Full custom taxi cabs and full custom police cars are not going to be able to compete with customized versions of production vehicles. Just the problem of amortizing the massive tooling costs for a vehicle across a relatively small production volume will kill them. Then there is the problem of having to buy a power-train and every other major subsystem from outside suppliers while again having only small order volumes.

    Not going to happen.

    Ford has the right idea with a Taxi version of the Transit Connect, and doesn’t Ford have an image boosting all electric version of the Transit Connect in the pipeline already?

  • avatar

    Why not a Ford Flex? It’s plenty big enough for 4-5 people and all of their stuff. Stick a 2L diesel in it, and Bob’s your uncle.

    • 0 avatar

      Only until the time urea tank needs refilling. We’ll get diesels like that when EPA is abolished.

    • 0 avatar

      And then city streets will return to the hazy soot filled cloud of yesteryear. Remember that bit about those who fail to learn from History are doomed to make the same mistakes. A few dirty cabs in a rural area is meaningless, but pack them into crowded city streets – bad news. However, I am sure that there are some educated rednecks out there that will find a way to bypass the urea fill requirement to prevent shutdown…

  • avatar

    The Transit Connect taxis are starting to come online here in Vegas. At least 2 major cab companies have them.

  • avatar

    Shanghai has some new VW Tourans, and I’m sold on MPV-style vehicles being the choice platform for cabs. Would be nice if there were some 7-passenger cabs rolling around though.

  • avatar

    The one in the top picture is really a London black taxi painted yellow.

  • avatar

    Transit Connect taxi certainly looks like the right idea… only if Ford BUILT it in the USA. Are you listening Billy?

  • avatar

    All those wasted years when taxis were based on the cramped-on-the-inside, big-on-the-outside Crown Vics and Caprices when London taxi cabs demonstrated for decades the superiority of a tall roof design.

    Ford Transit Connect is so much more suited to the task than any sedan.

  • avatar

    I’ll take the Connect. The MV-1 would hurt taxi business and tourism in NYC because people would be too embarrassed to get in them and tourists would flee in terror.

  • avatar

    It seems that the taxi market is a natural extension for Carbon motors. The basic Police platform, without special lighting and with a revised rear seat, would make a fine taxi. A smaller, CNG powered, power plant would reduce casts. The extra volume would help the Carbon business model as well.

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