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Old 04-28-2008, 11:21 AM   #20
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London black cab to regain glory through "made-in-China"

April 28, 2008 - The London black cab, regarded as one of the capital city's icons, is to regain its glory through a joint program with a Chinese car manufacturer in Shanghai, where the first London black cab is expected to roll out in about six weeks.

Manganese Bronze, the former sole owner of the London black cab and now a shareholder with Chinese car manufacturer Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. in their joint venture -- Shanghai LTI Automobile Ltd., said that the new "made-in-China" model, will enable China to leapfrog with greener cabs of international reputation and enliven the London cab which was hard-hit by high costs.

"We are waiting with great excitement to see the London black cab rolling off the Shanghai production line," said Mark Fryer, Manganese's group finance and business development director.

Through the Shanghai production line, the "iconic black cab" history which seemed to come to an end for the high costs, will goon, in a much larger scale, said Fryer.

Manganese Bronze could greatly lower the cost of production when outsourcing its parts as a result of the cooperation with China's Geely, as its enlarged scale will enable them to approach bigger manufacturers with better quality parts, he said.

The first-ever black cab left the company's Coventry factory in1948, and since then, more than 100,000 vehicles have rolled off the production line in the automobile base city of Coventry.

But black cab production fell on hard times at the turn of the century when 70 percent of its parts had to be imported from continental Europe, driving up costs to an unaffordable level.

The cost of producing a TX4 black cab, Fryer said, runs at about 21,000 to 28,000 pounds, but that will be halved, once shifted to China, while at the same time retaining quality.

While continuing its Coventry production with parts imported from China, expectedly 100 percent from China by 2009, Fryer said that Manganese Bronze will do its best to promote sales of the London cab.

"We have pre-sold 500 of the Shanghai produced cabs," the Manganese Bronze director said, adding that he is planning to sell10,000 next year mainly in the U.S. market.

According to the joint venture plan, the Shanghai plant will have the capacity of turning out 40,000 vehicles every year.

Despite Manganese Bronze hosts warning them not to be surprised when they see an old and largely hand-made assembly line in the Coventry factory, many Chinese visitors still come back with a big question mark on their mind -- "is this the famous London black cab home?" Liu Hui, a London-based Chinese who had an on-the-spot tour, said.

The condition of the assembly line in Coventry was as good as it was almost half a century ago, Liu and his colleagues were told before their tour in the factory, but they were still surprised by what they saw.

Mike Brown, the operation director at Manganese Bronze Coventry headquarters, said that the factory in Coventry, still the center of auto industry in Britain, is about 29,000 square meters, but the Shanghai factory is at least twice the size.

Manganese Bronze agreed with Chinese car manufacturer Geely to hold equity in a joint venture company, Shanghai LTI Automobile Ltd, to produce four different vehicles: the iconic London Taxi, a limousine variant of the London Taxi and two additional large saloon cars.

The joint venture, with a total investment of about 53 million pounds(106 million U.S. dollars), is funded from shareholders' equity of 29 million pounds and bank loans of 24 million pounds.

LTI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Manganese Bronze, will utilize the skills of its Coventry business to support the establishment of manufacturing in Shanghai, support quality initiatives in Shanghai LTI and sales in the world market.
source: Xinhua
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