The London Taxi Corporation Ltd (trading as The London Taxi Company; formerly Manganese Bronze Holdings plc) is an automotive engineering company headquartered in Coventry, United Kingdom, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Chinese automaker Geely. It was founded in 1899 and its principal activity is the design, development and production of taxicabs.
Once an important conglomerator of British motorcycle marques, the sale of its components division in 2003 left the company with only one operating division—LTI Limited, trading as The London Taxi Company—which manufactures London black taxicabs for the UK market at its manufacturing site in Coventry and in Shanghai for sale in the rest of the world. It retails and provides maintenance services for taxis in major cities globally.
In October 2012, Manganese entered administration, having not made a profit since 2007. Geely, which already owned 20% of the shares in the company's UK business, agreed to purchase the London Taxi Company's principal assets and trade from the administrator in order to save the business and continue the production of taxis in Coventry.
Manganese originally made ship propellers. In the early 1960s Manganese Bronze Bearings Ltd (as it was then known) was taken over by Villiers Engineering Ltd, a motorcycle company chiefly known for its range of engines, creating Manganese Bronze Holdings Ltd. This company subsequently bought Associated Motor Cycles Ltd, owners of the Norton AJS and Matchless motorcycle brands in 1964.
Manganese absorbed part of the Birmingham Small Arms Company in 1973, under chairman Dennis Poore, as part of a rescue plan initiated by the British government. BSA Motorcycles interests trading as Triumph were combined with Manganese motorcycle production to form Norton Villiers Triumph. BSA Guns was liquidated in 1986. BSA's components businesses became Manganese Bronze Components Division, comprising sintering, precision casting and metal powders; this division was sold in 2003 and went bankrupt a short period later.
In January 2003 Manganese launched Zingo Taxi, an innovative taxi hailing system using mobile location technology. This was sold to Computer Cab in November 2004 for £1. This was to stem large losses because only 1,100 of London's approximately 21,000 taxi drivers subscribed. Between July 2003 and November 2004 Manganese also sold its property portfolio, including the land under its Coventry manufacturing facility.
In October 2006 Manganese and the Chinese automaker Geely announced the creation of a China-based taxicab manufacturing joint venture. An extraordinary general meeting held in January 2007 of Manganese's shareholders approved the formation of the joint venture. In June 2008 Manganese announced the production of the first prototype TX4 taxi at its Chinese joint venture, LTI Shanghai.
In July 2008 Manganese announced that it would be making redundant 40 employees as a result of the global economic downturn.
On 29 June 2009 the company advised that Geely had a notifiable interest in 6,085,000 of the company's ordinary shares, representing 19.971% of the issued ordinary share capital.
In March 2010 it was announced that Manganese would move the production of all taxicab bodies and chassis to Shanghai, but TX4 cabs for the UK market would continue to be assembled in Coventry. In the same month it was reported that Geely would increase its shareholding in Manganese to 51% through participation in a placing of new shares. In August 2010 it was announced that Geely had decided not to proceed with the share placement and its shareholding in Manganeze would remain at just under 20%.
Manganese entered administration on 22 October 2012 after failing to secure additional funding; PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were appointed as the administrator. On 31 October PwC announced that 156 Manganese staff in the UK were to be made redundant with immediate effect, out of the company's then total of 274 employees in the country, with the losses spread across its manufacturing facility, head office and dealerships.
In January 2013, it was reported that Geely was in negotiations to buy the remaining shares of the company from PwC in order to save the business. A press statement in February 2013 announced that an agreement had been reached for Geely to purchase the remainder of the London Taxi Company's assets, manufacturing rights, unsold stock and dealerships, with a new company called Geely UK Ltd. resuming assembly of the London black cab in Coventry.
In 2015 Geely announced plans to build a new £250 million plant for the London Taxi Company in Ansty Park near Coventry, with production planned to start at the new site in 2017.
The classic Austin FX3 black taxicab of 1948 was built by car body builder Carbodies in partnership with Mann & Overton and Austin. More than 7,000, mainly destined for London, were produced over 10 years. Carbodies concentrated on producing complete taxis, starting with the Austin FX4 in 1958-59; this is the classic cab still common today. They were taken over by Manganese Bronze in 1973. In 1982 Carbodies took over the intellectual rights to the FX4 from British Leyland (which had by then absorbed Austin). Latterly, developed FX4 models became known as the LTI Fairway.
LTI introduced the successor to the FX4, the TX1 in 1997. It was developed into the TXII, which was introduced in 2002. It is powered by a Ford Dura Torq 2.4-litre diesel engine and features an integral, fold-down ramp for wheelchairs. It also has an intermediate step and swivel-out seat for passengers with moderate walking difficulties. For people with hearing problems it has an induction loop incorporated in the intercom system.
The latest model as of 2006 is the TX4. It is powered by a VM R 425 DOHC diesel engine and features many refinements and enhancements.
All taxis licensed in London must comply with the Conditions of Fitness, originally written in 1906 and which are managed by the Public Carriage Office (PCO). Formerly a civilian branch of the Metropolitan Police Service, the PCO is now part of Transport for London.
Over 130,000 London black cabs have been produced at the London Taxi Company's Coventry site over the past 60 years. Annual production averaged between 2,000 and 2,500 units per year. Around two-thirds of production goes into London via a dealership in Islington. The remainder goes mainly to the larger cities in the UK that have adopted the Conditions of Fitness. Outside these cities the market for taxis is dominated by multi-purpose vehicles that have been converted to make them wheelchair-accessible in line with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
Geely has been in talks over the possibility of converting London's black cabs into electric-powered vehicles. The company said it has held talks with UK government officials about the plan. In May 2016, it was reported that they had secured £275 million ($400 million) for the project, which aims to manufacture 36,000 vehicles at its new Coventry, UK plant. The TX5 electric hybrid will be made at a new facility in Ansty, 5 miles (8 kilometres) from Coventry.