Even before the demise of the Aussie Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, Brisbane’s taxi companies were heavily embracing Toyota. The streets were dotted with HiAce vans, Camry Hybrids and Priuses. With Ford and Holden no longer targeting taxi fleets here, Toyota has enthusiastically filled the vacuum. In contrast, Mercedes-Benz is stronger than ever and yet its dominance of Berlin’s taxi fleets is showing some tiny cracks and again Toyota is the insurgent.
This is the typical taxi on the streets of Berlin today: a Mercedes-Benz E-Class painted in light ivory (“Hellelfenbein”), the mandated colour of German taxis since 1980. As of 2014, Mercedes-Benz had 60% of the taxi market in Germany although in some parts of the country – like Berlin – you’d swear the percentage was higher. The Stuttgart automaker offers taxi versions of the B, C, E and S-Class plus the Citan, Vito and V-Class vans. These carry lower list prices than corresponding private buyer versions.
The E-Class taxi, for example, has revised wiring to accommodate radio equipment. There’s also taxi-specific interior lighting, rubber mats and the light ivory paint. It’s not stripped out, however, still coming with heated front seats and automatic climate control. Model badging doesn’t appear at the rear but if you pop the hood, you’ll find one of three 2.0 turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engines.
With the tide turning against diesels in Europe, Toyota stands to benefit. Although their percentage of the German taxi market remains in the single digits, they account for 15% of Berlin’s taxis – good enough for third place after Volkswagen.
Berlin is yet another market, like Brisbane and New York City, where Toyota’s products have been proven to stand up to the rigors of taxi duty. Although Mercedes may never relinquish their stranglehold on the German taxi market, don’t be surprised if Toyota continues to increase its market share there.
Meanwhile, Munich’s biggest taxi firm ordered 10 Jaguar I-Pace EVs. Well…you’ve got to start somewhere.
In a few months, the comparable Mercedes-Benz EQC (also an EV) will be available. Stuttgart Taxi Edition soon?
I saw those Jaguar I-Pace taxicabs a few days ago.
Tesla Model S is very popular here in Munich, too.
Many of German taxicabs have the paint films covering the body rather than painted in Hellelfenbein at factory. This helps with resale value once their duty of ferrying the customers is over by peeling off the Hellelfenbein to reveal grey, silver, or black paint colour.
Some German states such as Baden-Württemberg or cities no longer require Hellelfenbein today.
Mercedes-Benz does offer the hybrid version of its E-Class called E 300 de. I am sure there will be petrol version coming…
It’s surprising that they bother to stock Hellelfenbein with flex additive in the factory paint shops, rather than painting door handles, bumper covers etc. black or silver on a factory-ordered taxi package. Ford used silver for the Crown Vic factory yellow cabs’ bumpers for years, and that or black for those police cars ordered in special fleet colors for even longer.
Thank you for the write up and information I never knew about before. I find it neat that many countries have a distinctive color for their taxis and I was expecting Germany to have a color that stands out more.
So are advertisements allowed on taxis in Germany? I see that Prius has some though the Mercedes Benz do not. Also surprised to see dents on the taxi since I thought Germany was more strict when it comes to car maintenance. Do these Berlin taxis get sold off and sent to smaller cities when their time in the big city is up? Are there private buyers interested in buying used taxis or is that more of a US thing?
Yes, the advertisements are mostly their own. Sometimes you would see the advertisements unrelated to taxicab service on the sides and roof like this one in the photo.
If I recall, the rooftop advertisement began to appear on German taxicabs about ten years ago or so.
Certainly in Chicago now Toyota seems to have a dominant position in taxi cabs. I’d imagine their total cost of ownership numbers are compelling (purchase cost, fuel use, maintenance, reliability, longevity, replacement parts costs, insurance, etc.). Strikes me as typically Toyota, with a methodical, disciplined approach that emphasizes the attributes that matter most to specific customer groups.
Separately, I’ve always been intrigued by the use of Mercedes-Benz products as taxi cabs, almost like a form of German pride-in-engineering and product functionality. However, I wonder how a Benz is truly cost-effective as a cab–sure MB products are robust, but they aren’t typically cheap to maintain. I assume that may be what Toyota is selling against.
I wonder how a Benz is truly cost-effective as a cab–sure MB products are robust, but they aren’t typically cheap to maintain. I assume that may be what Toyota is selling against.
The manufacturers and local sales centres (Niederlassungen) usually have the special arrangements with the taxi service providers. Sometimes the manufacturers would “lend” the vehicles for real world driving as to evaluate the heavy duty environment. Some sales centres would do the same as “advertisement” in order to bring attention to the new products. We’ve seen Porsche Panamera and Cayenne in Hellelfenbein colour and TAXI signs on their roofs.
Mercedes-Benz offers 14% rebate with specific conditions and the integrated turnkey solution, meaning the taxi service providers don’t need to modify the passenger vehicles. Das Taxi as Mercedes-Benz calls them has heavy duty equipment, impossibly tighter turning radius, meter integrated into dashboard and rear view mirrors, complete wiring to the illuminated signage anchored to the roof via slots, GPS location, etc.
If I am not mistaken, many more cabs in Germany are owner/operators rather than centralized with daily “leases” as over in the US. As such, the German cabbie can use his vehicle privately after hours and more importantly takes pride in his cab.
At least one city in Germany, can’t recall if Berlin or Stuttgart, for years had an MB dealer service dept open 24/7 for taxi service only, i.e. if something is needed it can be fixed immediately.
Mercedes is everywhere in Germany as the default cab but regionally there are other brands as well, in Ingolstadt there are a lot of Audi cabs, we even saw one with an MTM logo on the back the last time we were there (MTM is one of the top Audi tuners, and is located just outside of town).
I daresay the Prius wagon is probably a better cab than an E-Class, the E is not the roomiest in the back seat area…
What is a bit perplexing though is that while Germans seem to more often purchase a wagon than a sedan, I recall most of the E-Class Taxis to be sedans instead of wagons.
The sedan is a fair bit cheaper than the wagon; or it certainly used to be.
In France, thanks to its diesel W123s and W124s, which were impossible to kill Mercedes is a very well established brand among cabdrivers.
So I guess Mercedes has a very good knowledge of their specific needs (a bit like Checker used to have in the US).
As an example, a cabdriver told me that Priuses were great but Toyota’s warranty wasn’t as extended as Mercedes’s, which is something they think about since they rack up hundreds of thousand miles in a relatively short span of time for a car.
Somewhere in Frankfurt have or had a Lancia Thema as a taxicab
Lately I was in Hamburg and Frankfurt and as far as I understood, we see the last days of the classic german taxi. Uber is still not allowed in Germany, but there are new taxi services coming up, financed by public transport companies and big companies. So that taxi landscape will change forever.
There were some nice new electric cabs around, I think these were London Taxis.
I didn’t take one, because one needed an app to call them:
Las Vegas has some fairly strict taxi rules/laws, although not as strict as NYC or Berlin.
Prior to the appearance of the Prius cab in ’04, the rules required that a car be retired at 200,000 miles. Somewhere around ’08-’09, cab companies got the mileage cap extended to 300k because there was absolutely nothing wrong with 200k-mile Prius cabs.
In Las Vegas, taxis spend a lot of time idling in hotel taxi queues. Except, of course, the Prius. It doesn’t idle at all – it can sit there inching forward in the line on the battery pack alone. So a 200k Prius has a lot fewer engine hours than a 200k gas-only cab.
Same with idling – or not – in traffic, which is why hybrids make so much sense in taxi work from a bottom-line perspective. Fewer idle hours on the engine, less volatile-in-price and hard-to-budget-for gas burned. They’ll continue to make the most sense in this purpose until full electrics’ range expands to handle an entire shift of hacking (or more if they “hot seat” it) and/or recharge time drops to a close-to-full charge in the driver’s lunch break.
200k miles or kilometers?
In Philadelphia, USA, where the Ford Panther-chassis cars are still king of the Taxis (but rapidly losing ground to hybrids), it is not unusual to see P71 Crown Victorias with well over 300,000 miles of very rough service.
200k miles, surely. Anecdotally, here in NYC Panther cabs appear to be outnumbered these days by Prius, Prius V, and Camry Hybrid taxis. Lots with hundreds of thousands of miles on the clock.
the crown victorias are disappearing in nyc. the camry hybrid seems more popular than the prius or the sienna. you also see a fair amount of ford escapes and cmax. there is also the nissan “taxi of tomorrow” that is wheelchair accessible and has a nice skyroof but gives a dismal rough ride. the black car services have moved to gmc tahoes’s and toyota avalons, all of them are hybrid.
I don’t take taxis much, but that Nissan NV200 ‘of tomorrow’ is one nasty little shoebox. Sure, the skyroof is fun for tourists, but they ride like a skateboard and sound like a blender chopping walnuts. I can almost feel them sucking the souls from their drivers on every occasion that I ride in one.
My first taxi ride in Munich was in a Prius oddly enough. The rest were all Mercedes though, C-Class and E-Class.
Having experienced a couple of Toyota cabs in Chicago, a question arises….
The American brands all had taxi packages. Mercedes apparently has taxi prep, at least in factory wiring, as Will stated in the text.
What, if any, reinforcement or modifications are found on Toyota cabs? If (and I said if) these are strictly retail cars pressed into taxi service, that would say volumes about the overall build quality.
I believe they are just regular cars. I’ve ridden in second generation Scion xB’s in Chicago but Camrys and Priuses are common there as well as the Ford C-Max (which I don’t think gets anything special from the factory either).
There’s no special taxi equipment on these Toyotas in the US, or anywhere.
My xB is coming upon 15 years this year, and not a single repair.
Last decade when I was traveling around a lot in eastern Europe and north Africa MB taxi cabs were ubiquitous. I’m sure they were pricey but ruggedness and lower overall operating costs probably won out over purchase price.
In my opinion any Mercedes after W123 is too much for taxi application. Those newer rear drive sedans are luxury car for successful people. Toyota has bee an answer to the Mercedes taxi for three decades, it is Toyota Crown Comfort, I can say for sure it could easily outlast any Mercedes taxi. Sadly Toyota stopped making Crown Comfort two years ago, it is replaced with a smaller hybrid model Comfort Taxi. It is a roomy and tall two box design with wheelchair access. It is now standard taxi in Hong Kong, it can adopt for German taxi industry easily.
While Toyota hybrid will get popular in European, why does Ford abandon that market? Its CMax is originally European designed vehicle and is a good choice for taxi too.
You do know that a modern Mercedes E class is significantly cheaper than the W123/124 was, in inflation adjusted terms? They’re more affordable than ever, especially in the US.
W124 is much more sophisticated than W123, is 1986 300E a most advanced sedan in 1980s? Toyota Crown Comfort is specifically built for taxi industry, it used a older mature technology and simple chassis desigh for long term durability. It is my understanding that Japan has a very restricted inspection rule for the vehicle including taxi. With popularity of Crown Comfort, it has to be good enough for the owners to pass the inspection. Why did Toyota decide not challenging MB beyond south Asian regions? My takes are it did not want to have trade conflicts, price of Crown Comfort and regulation issues. But its Comfort Taxi will show up in cities over the globe if internal combustion engines are not phased out.
I don’t know where you live, but the German cars sold in Germany have wider range of equipment level from Spartan to opulent levels as well as many more engine and gearbox choices than ones sold in the United States. Same for price, too.
The popular taxicab version of W123 in the 1970s and 1980s as I recall was 200D, and occasionally 220D, and four-speed manual gearbox. It was much more bare utilitian version. Today, it’s still 200D or 220D but with nine-speed automatic gearbox, air-conditioning, power windows, etc. E-Class isn’t exclusive offering from Mercedes-Benz: there are B-Class, which is popular, too, and S-Class, which is common sight as well. V-Class is often used for larger group or wheelchair access.
Luggage space is also an important consideration. The small vans, especially Ford C-Max, don’t have lot of room, for business traveller’s luggage if two or three are riding together. Otherwise, the luggage would have to be piled up rather than side by side in the saloons. I’ve seen that problem in Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires where Ford Transit Connect was popular choice as shuttle vans.
Volkswagen Touran (van) and Passat wagon are also popular alternatives to Mercedes-Benz.
I was “forced” to drive Ford C-Max once on the road trip to Paris and back. It was utterly the worst European car I’ve driven. Very thirsty. Very uncomfortable. Very dreadful!
Same thing in Paris.
Mercedes was a brand of choice for most cab drivers. A huge share of taxis used to be Mercedeses.
Skoda eat a fair share of that share, thanks to cheap and reliable sedans.
And Toyota’s Prius is more and more becoming the equivalent of what the Crown Vic used to be in New York.
Moreover, Priuses aren’t only bought by cab companies but also by independant cab drivers, because they like how cheap it is to run them. Even with the cost of battery replacement,and higher price of gas, many of them told me it’s still cheaper to run than diesel engines.
As a consequence, Mercedeses are more and more an upscale brand of choice, if the cab driver wants to belong to executive lines offered by cab companies. I guess they get some advantages doing so, some priority on some kinds of fares, like luxury hotels and stuff (because the cost for customers stays the same, no matter if it’s a E-Class Mercedes or a Dacia Lodgy).
On the downside about Priuses, whenever I take one, more and more of their drivers use them GTA style, pedal to the metal, swerving into traffic, with the gas engine in full mode ON. It’s so fast and agressive they should propose an Uzi to do some drivebys and perfectly match GTA videogames…
I’m not that sure cabdrivers gain anything on gas mileage doing so.
Behind the prius is one of the cars that most Americans aspire to own………….a taxi cab!!
That’s exactly the issue.
The perception of the Mercedes-Benz brand in the US is not the same (to put it mildly) as in Europe and other regions.
Throughout the decades, Mercedes-Benz has always built trucks (Unimog included), buses, coaches, panel vans, farm tractors, stationary and marine engines and power units for farm- and construction equipment.
Plus taxi cabs and super simple diesel cars (W115 and W123) to be used as a high quality tool by contractors, market vendors, cattle dealers and such.
They are basically the Chevrolet of Germany……………………lol!!
it’s funny how people in the US don’t get it. Samsung has a new phone out,the s10 Galaxy line $1000 dollar phone, you buy it here you get a phone,headphones,power plug. You buy it anywhere else and you also get a case to protect your investment. but not here. Go figure.
Back in 2014 Toyota had already conquered 45% of the taxi car market in Italy.
Since then, their market share increased year after year, the Auris SW being the most popular followed by the Prius and Prius Plus a distant third.
The combination of stellar reliability, excellent fuel economy (mostly in urban cycle) and a standard automatic transmission is hard to beat, indeed.
However, save for the mpv styled Prius Plus I would hardly find any reason to be happy from the customer side. As an occasional taxi user, I find that a ride in the back seat of an Auris or a Prius is a painful experience given the limited space and the narrow access.
A squeaky old Fiat Croma or a creaky Citroen Picasso are friendlier to your back, especially when you are stuck in rush hour traffic.
I foresee a good Italian taxi future for the new (hybrid) Corolla Touring Sports, that’s the wagon alright.
I currently work at LAX. All regular taxis are Prius. There are a percentage of vans for handicapped, etc. Those are not usually Toyota, but mostly Dodge.