Nov.28 - Manganese Bronze, the maker of London's black cabs, is in administration. Part owned by Chinese automaker Geely, the company faces stiff competition from Mercedes Benz and a new taxi Nissan plans for next year. Ivor Bennett reports
The work begins to keep London's famous black cabs on the road. This is one of over 450 models recalled due to faulty steering. The problem forced manufacturer Manganese Bronze to suspend sales altogether - leaving it on the brink of collapse...its iconic vehicle on a slippery slope. But lead administrator Matthew Hammond says finding a buyer could solve the problem. SOUNDBITE (English) MATTHEW HAMMOND, PWC, LEAD ADMINISTRATOR FOR MANGANESE BRONZE, SAYING, "I think it's right for everyone to have been concerned and still be concerned about the black cab. but there's been a massive outpouring of good will towards the business. and most importantly we've got a range of different interests being expressed in the business that will take us a couple of months to resolve as we go through the administration. but I am hopeful that there will be a successful outcome to the administration." Normally known for their high spirits, drivers in this cabbie-cafe aren't so optimistic. A new age limit means older vehicles are being pulled off the road at a rate of 15 every week. Without new models replacing them, drivers predict there'll be up to 1000 of them without a cab by Christmas. SOUNDBITE (English) JONATHAN MYERS, PRESS OFFICER, UNITED CABBIE GROUP DRIVERS UNION, SAYING, "There are just no taxis out there. they don't exist. they're not being manufactured at the moment. so that's why it's impossible to find one at the moment." London's black cabs have looked like this since the 1950s. An iconic shape that's stayed the same thanks to strict regulations. SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS REPORTER, IVOR BENNETT, SAYING, "All black cabs are required by law to have a turning circle of just 25 feet to cope with London's narrow streets. That allows them to do u-turns in tight spots just like this. Until 2008 no one else could copy this, but that's now changed." This is the new face in the market. A Mercedes Benz van converted into a 6 seater cab. It's the right colour, and has the orange light, but it's definitely a change from the traditional design. Manager Peter da Costa says that shouldn't matter. SOUNDBITE (English) PETER DA COSTA, KPM TAXIS, SAYING, "I love the traditional shape, i do because i've been brought up with it. but i just think that things move on, you've got a world class brand in Mercedes that's put billions of euros into research and development. the working environment in the vehicle is so much better for the driver." Mercedes-Benz already has a 38% share of the market and sales have jumped since its competitors problems. So London will still have its taxis, just not as it knows it.