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.