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All hail the London taxi

posted 28 Jan 2011, 04:55 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 28 Jan 2011, 04:59 ]
Paris is the first stop in the London Taxi Company's new campaign to sell its iconic British design abroad.
EUROPE-TAXIS - An iconic London taxi - on the streets of Paris.

It's a startling sight, but it may soon become much more commonplace.

Tough economic times forced The London Taxi Company to look outside the UK for new business.

It's hoping the Paris Car Show will prepare the ground for a new kind of British Invasion.

Elisabeth Young is the President of London Taxis Paris.

ELISABETH YOUNG, PRESIDENT OF LONDON TAXIS FRANCE, SAYING:

"It handles very well so in Paris's tight streets, just like in London's, it turns in a great way. I have been incredibly pleased since I started driving it. You can park very well and you can make u-turns virtually on the spot."

It's no secret that the French and English don't always see things the same way, so it's unclear what kind of reception these vehicles can expect. For some, the equation is simple.

Sami Djarabi, saying 

"Well as long as they don't come here and take all the jobs in Paris, if there are a few, yes why not. But if there's one thousand of them, it's a bit more of problem."

London's cabbies are renowned for their intimate knowledge of city streets and pretty well known for their opinionated nature.

London cabbie, saying:

"Paris, they'll do OK, they'll be able to navigate the Arch de Triumph and the Champs Elysees a lot easier than their taxis."

London cabbie, saying:

"I think it's a good idea if they can advertise it in other countries, I think it will be pretty good."

It's here in Coventry, Middle England where London's taxis have been manufactured since 1948.

However, now they're merely assembled here. The main parts are made in Shanghai by the company's Chinese partners Geely.

London Taxi Company CEO John Russell:

John Russell, Chief Executive Officer, The London Taxi Company, saying:

"I think we would would have gone out of business without our Chinese partner because we wouldn't have had access to better cost, we wouldn't have had access to resources to improve our product and grow our business internationally."

Geely bought a 51 percent stake in the taxi firm in 2007.

Russell says the backing of China's biggest privately owned car maker should help them produce more than 300,000

vehicles a year.

 John Russell, Chief Executive Officer, The London Taxi Company, saying:

"Well we think the main markets in Europe, even though they're quite tough given that we have established taxi operations in all of those countries, we do think there is a really big opportunity so the recent new appointment in markets like France, Italy and Germany we think are going to grow into substantial businesses."

Like with the mini and mini-skirts of the swinging sixties, the company behind this classic design is hoping a little London 'je ne sais quoi' will help it win over even the most discerning customers.

Hayley Platt, Reuters

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