Home » The Next Big Global Electric Carmaker Is… London’s Black Taxi Company?

The Next Big Global Electric Carmaker Is… London’s Black Taxi Company?

Taxi Top

The alternative headline for this morning’s news roundup, soon to be called The Morning Breakdown (if I can persuade everyone [Ed Note: It seems a little boring, so we’re gonna workshop it. -DT]), is WTF GEELY? The Chinese automaker already has its hands in Polestar, Lotus, and Volvo. I’d forgotten Geely also owned the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), aka the maker of those London Black Cabs we associate with the city. Now Geely apparently wants to make it a consumer brand with both passenger and commercial vehicles. I say, yet again, WTF?

London Taxis For Everyone

London Black Taxi

It’s a sort of knee-jerk reaction of those of us who write these morning roundups and worship at the altar of our one true prophet, newsletter-king Matt Levine, to jump into things with a kind of faux-learned skepticism. I’m going to resist the urge and instead approach today’s weird news with a serene open-mindedness.

Here’s the headline that woke me up this morning, from Reuters: “Exclusive: Geely plans to turn maker of London black cabs into EV powerhouse.”

From the article:

China’s Geely (0175.HK) is planning a big investment to turn the maker of London’s iconic black taxis into a high-volume, all-electric brand with a range of commercial and passenger vehicles, executives at the unit told Reuters.

London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) also aims to expand its suite of services, which include cars arranging their own maintenance and recognising their owner’s interests to help them book activities.

Um… Say WHAAAAAAAT?

A little context: Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, aka Geely, is a Chinese mega-conglomerate that owns so many brands that I can never quite remember all of them. In addition to all the ones above, Geely also has Terrafugia (the flying car people) and Lynk & Co. Oh, Proton. Can’t forget Proton. And, like, 10% of Mercedes-parent Daimler.

Somehow, with all the above (and a bunch of other Chinese brands), the company isn’t leaving behind LEVC, which was one of its first major international purchases.

I sort of love this? Geely’s done a seemingly good job with the London Black Taxi (this Car And Driver review of their EV version is fun) and the cars have a recognizable design with plenty of space for passengers.

From the beginning, the dream of the EV is to have a suite of shared components that can be used to create a truck or an SUV or a van or a sports car or a whatever. Modular architecture turned up to 11. There are plenty of markets where the London Black Taxi look and vibe could carry a brand (probably not the United States, but that’s apparently why Zeekr was created). The article alludes to this possibility:

Allen said LEVC was exploring a range of commercial and passenger car models on a common electric platform. It can lean on other group brands that already have EVs to “move forward in a fast, agile way”.

The company already uses an infotainment system and software developed by Volvo and a steering wheel from the Swedish carmaker, allowing it to cut costs, Allen said.

If the cars are to be true to the London Black Taxi heritage, it needs to have the world’s best navigation system paired with some problematic thoughts about people from Pakistan.

Cash Rules Everything Around Maybach, C.R.E.A.M.

Maybach S

We’ve already touched on how well luxury cars performed last year relative to the rest of the market, and that trend should continue into 2023 with a twist: Cash.

With interest rates rising, if you’ve got the cash why would you finance? A $200,000 loan over 48 months at a relatively low 3.0% interest rate works out to more than $12k over the course of the loan. You know how much caviar that could buy? No, seriously, do you know? I don’t know. I assume a lot.

I bring this up because Bloomberg’s Hannah Elliott, whose job it is to know what rich car people are thinking, talked to some experts about the trend for this article:

“Cash was important last year and will continue to be in 2023,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox Automotive. “More wealthy consumers will buy with cash rather than finance in 2023.”

Stock market volatility and economic uncertainty have wealthy consumers sitting on bigger cash reserves, so they are spending more money in absolute dollars. Meanwhile, auto loan interest rates are currently hitting 20-year highs.

This trend in the luxury sector will have lingering impacts on industry profits and future consumer behaviour. All-cash purchases mean that dealerships see lower income from financing — something dealers for Genesis, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Infiniti and Jaguar have already begun to try to combat by offering consumers aggressive lease offers, said Mr Krelle.

Leases are going to be fun to watch.

Leases Are Going To Be Fun To Watch

Kia Top

See what I did there? Let’s get another quote from a Cox Automotive expert, this time from an Automotive News piece about leasing:

Experts are predicting that leasing will grow as a proportion of auto sales in 2023 after falling last year to what Cox Automotive said was its lowest share of the market in at least a decade.

Affordability concerns and increased automaker incentive spending are expected to help drive that growth, experts said.

Cox Automotive projects that leasing will represent 21 percent of new-vehicle retail sales in 2023, up from an estimated 19 percent in 2022, according to Charlie Chesbrough, the company’s senior economist.

That would be dope for car dealers and automakers, who have had to weather shortages and all sorts of other pandemic-related nonsense only to then be faced with rising interest rates and inflation fears. Being able to find a way to get people into some cars with reasonable monthly payments means bankable revenue for automakers and, potentially, increased affordability for consumers.

I’m not big on leasing, personally, but if you’re going to want a new car every few years then it’s not a bad deal.

Check Out This Bathurst Bentley

Bentley Bathurst

Enough financial news. Check out this sweet, sweet Bentley. The ginormous but awesome Bentley Continental GT3 won the prestigious Bathurst 12 Hour race, which is a sports car race on Australia’s Mt. Panorama. To celebrate, Bentley is making two customer cars inspired by the win. From the company’s press release announcing the cars:

The two cars in the pair both have individual specifications. The first car takes inspiration from the livery of the winning race car, with an exterior is bright Apple Green, contrasted by a Beluga black roof, wing mirrors, lower bumper and rear boot silhouette. The unique front visual also includes a number seven painted on the grille matrix, as per the racer.

The contemporary performance theme continues with the inclusion of the Blackline Specification – replacing all exterior bright chromework with polished black versions – and the Styling Specification (front splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser in carbon fibre) providing a more aggressive visual stance.

The cabin is far more luxurious than the race car counterpart whilst offering a performance feel. Using a mixture of Leather and Dinamica in Beluga with Apple Green accents via micro-piping and contrast stitch, the interior complements the exterior perfectly. ‘BATHURST’ has been stitched into the headrests and ‘One of Two’ can be seen on the treadplates. A unique metal overlay depicting the track has been included in the carbon fibre technical finish fascias on the passenger side, and the names of the victorious drivers together with the winning number seven can be found on the centre console.

Neat. You also get a little model. That’s fun! This is fun. I like this.

Bentleyinterior

The Flush

Have you ever leased a car? Would you again?

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Photos: LEVC, Kia, Mercedes, Bentley

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68 Responses

      1. How about “The Transmission Leak”

        You get a pun on “transmission” (car/radio) and “Leak” gets you a triple with leaked information, transmission leak, and well (insert classic Autopian juvenile humor here).

  1. I like “The Morning Fix”. Since a lot of us drive older vehicles, something inevitably goes wrong. Even if it’s the Bluetooth being wonky and needing a power cycle to reset. It could also refer to caffeine. That would harken back to the original tag line of: “pull up a throne if your coffee’s worked too well”. A new line could be: “Get your fix of automotive news while getting your morning fix, whatever it may be.”

    1. My kidney for an edit button! /s

      Never leased, never plan to. Not unless it’s a crazy cheap EV lease where the monthly cost is less than gassing up my paid-off econobox. Like $99 a month for a base LEAF or something similar. But mileage would be the kicker since my commute is shorter in time than in miles.

  2. In reply to the flush, I have never leased a car and never plan to. I drive too far for leasing and more importantly I don’t feel like always having a car payment. My car has been paid off for a year and unless a PHEV Maverick becomes readily available I’m going to keep it for at least another 5 years.

    My sister has leased her last 2 cars. The same car just 3 years newer and I think I have almost convinced her to buy out her lease or when the lease ends just buy a different car. We will see what happens in a little over a year but for now she seems open to not leasing anymore.

  3. I have leased several cars. I don’t have a problem as I like getting cars. I enjoy the buying process and would ideally swap every 2 or 3 years anyways. I’m the kind of person that will always have a car note. I stopped because I now rack up too many miles for leasing to be an option.

  4. There are a lot of factors in play when it comes to leasing’s viability for a buyer.

    Take your average German luxury car. High depreciation, high maintenance. You stand to take a hit paying cash or financing. Used models often come with other people’s problems. Leasing makes sense here.

    Similar logic applies to entry-level brands not known for long-term durability. Do you really see yourself owning a Versa for more than three years? Is it really worth all the cash/debt upfront to own? Probably not. Buying one used?! GTFO!

    Back when automakers and dealers offered more incentives, you could also work the system a bit with “lease cash” that you can’t get with financing/cash. This way, instead of a 72 month loan at one price, you get 3 years of cheaper payments and a buyout option lower than a comparable CPO.

    “Consider a used Toyota” has become my version of “Stay in school, kids”.

    1. I having been leasing for a long time now on exactly GhosnInABox’ theory. I lease new BMW’s for three years with the maintenance included. The cars have a four year warranty so at lease turn-in time they’re still desirable and so the residuals are high. It’s been a while since I did the calculations but when I did them, I was driving BMW for the cost of driving a nice Camry. Note that since I don’t drive a great number of miles I don’t have to replace either brakes or tires during my lease period.

      By the way, a lease on a CPO-warranty BMW is actually a better deal (or it used to be before used prices went insane).

      1. Would I recommend this for everybody? Absolutely not, but it works well for me.

      2. Would I ever own a BMW that wasn’t covered by a BMW warranty program? Hell no.

  5. Press Release Rehash is a little on the nose
    The Wipe is incremental change from the current excremental name
    Morning Press Release Immersion stinks because it reads like a repair manual morning dump

  6. I leased a couple of times when it made sense for my financial situation and I knew it wasn’t a vehicle I would want to keep long term. I might do it again when I take the first steps into the EV world. I think we are still at the stage of rapid evolution there that it doesn’t necessarily make sense to make a bigger investment.

  7. I think Geely is doing something smart. The cab is both a good application and an established platform that they can now convert to light delivery and passenger van uses.
    Leasing cars has its uses, primarily for business for tax reasons or people who want new cars all the time. I leased once when I had no running car, no time and minimal cash. I ended up buying it out because after three years I had a good used car at a price I could afford and I was once again strapped for time. My other vehicles were cheap cash purchases so I’m OK with the payments especially now that the car is worth several thousand more than the loan

  8. Still stumping for the Morning Woody. Yes, women get them too.

    Leasing is for businesses and people who need to feed their ego by having new cars all the time. Anyone else who leases is just poor at making financial decisions.

    1. I have a theory that to dream, our body drains the critical faculties of our brain of blood so that they cannot judge the nonsense the other half of the brain is producing. Storing the blood in our genitalia makes sense; thus we get morning wood.
      I don’t care to find out whether this is true or not, I like my idea and shall hold on to it.

  9. The Flush: I have never leased a car because when I’ve looked into it, I could see all sorts of gotchas that the dealer can screw you with. No thanks. If I can’t afford to buy the car, then I need to look at a cheaper car.

  10. Re the flush:
    I have never leased (or even bought new), but I am seriously considering leasing a BYD Atto 3 for two reasons:
    1. Unknown reliability. BYD is a brand new marque here in Aus, I’d rather not be tied into something that could turn out to be a money pit if the reputation for Chinese reliability turns out to extend to EVs
    2. The best EV incentives in Australia apply to business purchases, and seeing as I don’t have my own business the best way for me to take advantage of this is through a novated lease agreement with my work.

    We’ll see how it goes I guess!

  11. How about The Morning Grind? IE coffee and start of work. Or The Morning After? Most stories recapped from day before? I don’t mind sophomoric humor it is just dump is crude not humorous. Didnt require any thought to think up so a fart joke with farts. IMHO

  12. London Taxis – as a long time owner of a classic diesel London Taxi I can’t say how excited I am that these will be offered for private sale. They are brilliant practical cars for daily life with style far beyond their utilitarian purpose. They are seriously tough machines (mine has 395,000 miles and doesn’t burn a drop of oil). I bought mine back in 2010 instead of a used pickup. They have the best turning circle in the world, 25 feet, get 275 miles per tank in city driving with a 13 gallon tank, they can seat 7, carry, carry 3/4 of a ton of cargo or people, and being wheelchair accessible means you can get a washer and dryer in the back seat using the wheelchair ramps. Not to mention they handle far better than you’d expect.

    I really hope they make these for the general public again and bring them to North America. They were briefly sold in the 1960s as the FL2 for private purchase but not for very long.

  13. I just leased a Polestar 2. The total in payments and interest plus residual payoff after 3 years was less than the purchase price plus interest if I had financed it for 5 years. I plan on paying the residual off and stuck the money into an ETF hoping the market rebounds over that time. But if there are big improvements in battery life or prices drop in the next 3 years I have the option to just return it.
    I leased a Leaf in 2013 just to dip my toes in the EV waters. I bought it at the end of the lease too.

  14. Dump is such a derogatory term. I prefer Pick ‘n Pull.

    Loans and leases are for people buying more than they can afford. Not a problem for the ultra wealthy. Unless they are buying a social media company.

  15. Honestly the world needs more cars with tight turning circles so I’m all for black cabs expanding their reach past London. That being said with how wide the turning circle is for most RWD cars honestly there isn’t much of an advantage of going with one over a FWD car.

    That being said I pulled an undisclosed shipping company truck out of the snow this weekend with my 150 HP 94 Toyota pickup and it made me really appreciate having a low range 4WD system, a manual transmission, and a solid frame I could hook the strap too, though I’m definitely buying a bubba rope because if I had one one those it would have taken half the time or less and been much less jerky.

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