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2004 London Taxi - LTI: Building a British Icon

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About This 2004 London Taxi

Posted: 11 Feb 2004

LTI (London Taxis International) FACT FILE

Now the UK's third largest wholly owned vehicle manufacturer.

2003 was the 75th anniversary of taxi production at Holyhead Road Coventry

2004 is the 20TH anniversary of the LTI trading name

Coventry has been synonymous with the British car industry for more than 100 years. Today, one of the stalwarts of the industry, LTI or London Taxis International, has its main office and factory in Holyhead Road. More than 100,000 Black Cabs have been produced by LTI in Coventry since 1948.

Last year was the 75th anniversary of taxi production at the current facility, and this year is the 20th anniversary of the company trading under the name LTI

LTI is a classic British evolution story - entrepreneurial beginnings in a specialist but growing fledgling car market, surviving various factory moves, adapting skills to be a major manufacturer in the Second World War, followed by spells under different ownerships.

LTI as it is today has created for itself an exclusive section of the British car market manufacturing the world-famous iconic Black Cab, and in so doing has become the third largest wholly-owned British vehicle manufacturer by volume behind MG Rover and LDV Limited.

From small roots . . .

Robert ‘Bobby' Jones founded the company in Coventry in 1919. In 1921, Jones moved the business to West Orchard in Coventry and starting trading as Carbodies. In 1928, Carbodies moved to the current Holyhead Road site in Coventry. During that time it has progressed from building car bodies, hence its former Carbodies name, for many of the major manufactures including Rolls Royce, Alvis, and Austin, to being a stand-alone manufacturer. During the Second World War, Carbodies built a number of military vehicles and pioneered tooling to produce fuel and drop tanks for fighter aircraft and press tools for the Lancaster bomber.

In 1948, Carbodies worked with Austin and Mann & Overton to produce the FX3 London Taxi. Mann & Overton was founded in 1899 and originally imported cars from the continent before becoming a specialist taxi supplier in 1906. In 1954, Carbodies was sold to Birmingham Small Arms Ltd, (BSA) and continued to produce a variety of body modifications to production cars from Ford, Rolls Royce, Austin, Triumph and Singer.

In 1959, an FX4 taxi was launched which set the standard for Black Cab design for today's London taxi. From then on Carbodies concentrated more and more on the building and distribution of Black Cab taxis.

In 1973, Carbodies was bought by the engineering group Manganese Bronze Holdings plc.

LTI as we know it today was formed in 1984 as a division of Manganese Bronze which also bought Mann & Overton in the same year from Lloyds & Scottish.

In 1997, the long-serving FX4 taxi was replaced by the TX1 and the name Carbodies was dropped in favour of London Taxis International, (LTI).

In 2002, the TXI was replaced by the TXII and powered by Ford's 2.4 Duratorq diesel engines as used in the Mondeo and Transit models. A Land Rover diesel engine had been used for many years until 1989 when it was replaced by a Nissan diesel unit. Today's LT11 has the option of a manual transmission but the majority of owners opt for automatic gearbox. Prices range from £ £29,900 to £ 31,800 and the TXII is available in three levels of specification, Gold, Silver and Bronze together with a whole range of additional options to meet individual owner/user requirements.

LTI today

Today, more than 400 people are responsible for the design, manufacture and sales of the British icon, the London Taxi, also known as the Black Cab, at LTI's 10-acre Holyhead Road factory and headquarters. Another 40 people are employed at the company's wholly-owned Mann & Overton taxi dealerships in London, Birmingham and Manchester. LTI has a further network of independent franchised dealers in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Peterborough,

Bristol and Bexhill.

In 2003, a total of 3,000 taxis rolled off the Coventry production line, each one more or less hand-built and each one taking up to two weeks to manufacture. Out of that total, 2,500 were destined for British customers and 500 for the growing export market with such countries as the USA, Israel, Germany, Spain, Japan, China and Thailand all wanting the world's only purpose-built taxi. In the UK the LTI Black Cab is used in more than 30 towns and cities around the UK where local licensing authorities have adopted London's 'Conditions of Fitness' taxi regulations, as well as others who have not.

With licensed taxis expected to play an ever-increasing role in the Government's proposed integrated transport programme, probable changes in the licensing laws and 'Conditions of Fitness' requirements, demand for the LTI Black Cab is set to increase rapidly. The high profile, visually identifiable, user-friendly, highly durable licensed British icon has a huge future.

As more overseas markets adopt the British Black Cab, export sales are expected to climb rapidly as existing and new markets open up for a purpose-built taxi, rather than using converted vans, conventional saloon and estate cars or MPVs.

Why LTI leads the world

Matthew Cheyne, the recently appointed Sales and Marketing Director of LTI, said, 'It is not unusual for our taxis to cover over a million miles in their average ten year life-span as they are used continuously in the majority of cases by two or more drivers 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week, 365 days a year'.

'The reasons we hand-build our taxis using a conventional strong steel chassis as the core to the vehicle are durability, reliability and long life. The bodyshell is uniquely accessible to the widest range of passengers. They may be relatively expensive but the depreciation value is much lower than taxis based on van or car conversion or conventional saloon cars and estate. What we are producing is a purpose-built vehicle designed specifically for passenger carrying. The 25 feet turning circle is just one of the better-known features. Very often these vehicle have to operate in confined and congested city streets and the easier and safer we make them to drive and to travel in the more fit for the job they are'.

'The benefits that the LTI TXII taxi provides to passengers begin before they even enter the cab. Perhaps people who have not used one of our taxis in recent years don't realise just how modern and sophisticated they are.

'To start with, the customer is in no doubt they are getting into a licensed and approved vehicle and the more personal safety becomes an issue for passengers and drivers alike, the more the LTI taxi meets those requirements'.

'The large, wide-opening doors, unobstructed floor, spacious interior and comfortable seats with three-point safety belts for all seats are welcoming. Every TX11 is equipped with an integral fold-down ramp to provide convenient and dignified entry for wheelchair users. A built-in brace holds wheelchairs firm and secure during transit. For those with less severe mobility problems an intermediate step and swivel out seat are fitted as standard at the nearside passenger door. For hearing aid users, an induction loop is fitted and for our younger passengers a child's seat is built into the rear centre armrest.

'A taxi driver can spend 3,000 hours a year in their vehicle so we have optimised their working environment. The upright command driving position is comfortable and gives the driver a high viewpoint for maximum visibility. There is now an attack-resistant centre division between the driver and the passengers, and an enlarged secure luggage area makes their life easier. The dashboard, facia and console are fully-equipped with ergonomically-placed controls and instruments and the interior trim is fully colour co-ordinated.

'We have recently launched a new initiative specifically aimed at female passengers. Recent police reports show an alarming increase in the number of attacks on women using unlicensed private hire or minicab vehicles. We have launched Taxiwise, a safety campaign giving advice to female users and highlighting to the authorities how changes need to be made as neither the driver nor the vehicle has been checked out.

'All these services and product refinements, whether they are for the driver or passengers, have come about from us at LTI listening to our customers, the taxi driver and their customers - the passengers. We hold regular ‘listening clinics' so we know what the real life demands are,' said Cheyne.

User-friendly features on the TXII taxi include:

protective centre division able to withstand attack from anything from a hammer to a baseball bat

enhanced central locking mechanism

more cushioned driver's seat

improved interior lighting

new co-ordinated dashboard and centre console trim

high quality rear carpeting

one-piece rear passenger windows

additional front luggage space

obscuration band on the front windscreen

integral fixing area for mobile phones and Zingo equipment.

new quick release screw for the integral wheelchair ramp

bright yellow escutcheon - a coloured handle behind the passenger door handles to aid their location by partially sighted passengers and those travelling at night.

child seat and swivel seat.

three point seat belts for al seats.

TXII principal technical specifications

Engine: Ford 2402 cc Duratorq four cylinder, 16 valve direct injection turbocharged diesel producing 88.5 hp at 4,000 rpm and 200 Nm of torque between 1,700 and 2,500 rpm.

Transmission: Manual Ford five-speed all syncro unit with floor shift lever or a Jatco four speed auto transmission and oil cooler.

Suspension and steering: Independent double wishbone front with coil springs and dampers. Parabolic leaf rear springs with telescopic dampers. Power assisted steering with a 28 feet turning circle between walls and a 25 feet turning circle between kerbs.

Brakes: A servo-assisted twin hydraulic system operating front ventilated four calliper disc and rear self-adjusting drum brakes.

Body: All zinc coated steel, four door lightweight body mounted on a separate cruciform steel chassis. Bolt on front panels and front and rear wings. Wax injected body and chassis. Moulded front and rear bumpers with separate end caps for easy replacement. Attack resistant screen between the driver and passenger compartments. Wheelchair ramp and lower step facility. Tinted glass, laminated windscreen, heated rear window, central door locking, electrically operated front and rear windows, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, height adjustable halogen headlights, separate controls for the driver and passenger heating system. Twelve body colours are available with Gold, Silver and Bronze levels of specification.

Dimensions (mm): 4580 overall length, 2036 wide, 1834 high, 2886 wheelbase, 134 ground clearance, 208 step height, 880 rear door width, 1350 interior height in passenger compartment.

Weight: Max permitted gross vehicle weight 2520 Kg. Approximate kerb weight due to equipment fitted 1800 Kg.

Fuel consumption mpg man/auto: Urban 29.0/25.3. Extra Urban 42.3/35.1. Combined 36.2/30.7

CO2 g/km man/auto: 206/243.

Service interval: 9,000 miles.

Warranty: Three-years/100,000 miles, (whichever comes first), five-year unlimited mileage mechanical breakdown driveline insurance, six year anti-perforation corrosion.

PRINCIPAL HISTORY DATES OF LTI (London Taxis International)

Robert ‘Bobby' Jones took over the coach building business of the motor vehicle company Goodermans Ltd in Coventry in 1919.

In 1921, Jones moved his business to West Orchard, Coventry, trading as Carbodies.

In 1928, Carbodies moved to the current site at Holyhead Road, Coventry.

During the Second World War, Carbodies produced a wide variety of vehicles including Field Marshall Montgomery's caravan, early radar vehicles and mobile canteens. It also pioneered tooling in a new material called Kirksite, using it to produce fuel tanks and drop tanks for Allied fighter planes, as well as press tools for the Lancaster Bomber.

In 1948, Carbodies worked with Austin and Mann & Overton to produce the FX3 taxi that had an Austin chassis with a body made by Carbodies. Mann & Overton was founded in 1899 by JT Overton and JJ Mann who originally imported motorcars from the continent before becoming a specialist taxi supplier in 1906.

In 1954, Bobby Jones sold the company to Birmingham Small Arms Ltd (BSA). Carbodies continued to produce a variety of modifications to other manufacturer's bodies, including Ford, Rolls Royce and Austin, working on the Triumph 2000, the Ford Zephyr, Consul convertibles and the Singer Vogue E.

In 1958, an updated version of the taxi, the ‘FX4', was launched and proved very popular. This vehicle had the basic shape of today's London taxi. Carbodies then began to concentrate on building and the distribution of taxis.

In 1973, Carbodies was purchased by Manganese Bronze Holdings plc. Manganese Bronze operates a variety of engineering activities including producing bus doors and ramps, as well as metal powders and high quality sintered and precision cast parts for the automotive and other industries.

In 1976, Lloyds & Scottish took over Mann & Overton, which included its finance company Mann & Overton Finance. In 1984, Mann & Overton was sold by Lloyds & Scottish to Manganese Bronze Holdings. Lloyds & Scottish retained the finance company as a joint venture business with Manganese Bronze Holdings plc and the finance company was reconstituted as London Taxi Finance Ltd in 1987. London Taxi Finance facilitates drivers entering the profession by financing the purchase of their vehicles - which is their second biggest investment in their life after their house.

London Taxis International (LTI) was formed in 1984 as a division of Manganese Bronze, bringing together Carbodies as the manufacturers and Mann & Overton as the sales and marketing organisation for London and the South.

In 1989 LTI replaced the Land Rover engine with a new Nissan engine, which was much smoother, more economical and very popular with drivers.

In February 1989, LTI introduced the wheelchair accessible Fairway with built-in wheelchair access and extending channel ramps.

In 1997, LTI launched the new purpose built taxi, the TXI. In late 1999, wheelchair channel ramps were superseded by an integral foldout one-piece ramp that cannot be removed.

The TXI has been exported to more than 26 countries around the world including the USA, Israel and Germany. It is used in 32 towns and cities around the UK that have adopted London's Conditions of Fitness, as well as others that have not.

In January 2002, LTI starting producing a Euro III emission standards compliant vehicle - the TXII. This uses the 2.4-litre Duratorq Ford diesel engine, used in the Transit and the Mondeo, developed and built at Ford's engine plant at Dagenham, Essex.

2003 was the 75th anniversary of taxi production at LTI's Holyhead Road factory in Coventry. LTI launched the Taxiwise safety campaign specifically aimed at female passengers following an alarming increase in attacks on lady passengers using unlicensed private hire vehicles and bogus minicabs. Zingo the revolutionary mobile phone taxi hailing service was initially introduced in the London and Dartford areas. LTI establish ‘listening clinics' to establish the exact requirements that taxi owners/operators and passengers would like to see incorporated in the LTI taxi.

2004 is the 20th anniversary of the company changing its name from Carbodies to LTI, London Taxis International.



Source: London Taxis International

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