The Nissan NV200 vehicle is New York's "Taxi of Tomorrow," the icon of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to upgrade the fleet to make those yellow cars safer and more comfortable. But -- this being New York -- tomorrow may never come.
Bloomberg has a month to get the "Taxi of Tomorrow" program back on its feet before his successor puts his "buck stops here" paperweight on the mayoral desk.
The program hangs by a thread -- and the Taxi and Limo Commission, which was a big supporter of mayor-elect Bill De Blasio (it pitched $350,000 to his campaign) holds the business end, as the commission will convene a hearing in a couple of weeks whose outcome will make or break the new cab.
The commission is considering whether to make certain “Taxi of Tomorrow” specifications the law of the streets. It will consider, among other things, whether taxis have to be crash-tested with plastic partitions pre-installed (the problem here is when you install the partitions, you sacrifice vehicle safety performance in various ways, so testing prior to installation is useless); and whether to make passenger-controlled air conditioning mandatory. If these parameters are required, then the stage is set for Bloomberg’s program to continue.
Nissan is the only taxi option that offers the above features, and it also has some of the other requirements like passenger airbags, a panoramic glass roof, reading lights and USB ports.
Nissan is hoping to relight the fire with a marketing campaign "#HailYes", intended to build public support for the cab. The effort, via TBWA New York, includes video and digital content touting the NV200's features -- USB charging, anti-fatigue driver's seats, sky views, odor reduction, leg room, more cargo space, and passenger safety technology.
Video ads on TaxiTV -- those little screens on the back of the front seat -- feature young taxi riders getting a lift in one of the cars by a real taxi driver and then showing the features while cruising around. There is also -- as the hashtag suggests -- a big social element on Facebook and Twitter channels, plus promoted social advertisements, media banner advertisements and outdoor ads near select New York City landmarks.
The automaker says passengers will get a video message from Nissan urging them to tweet #HailYes when they ride in New York City cabs. The message will run through the end of the year.
Nissan says media banners will run on news sites popular with New Yorkers and two #HailYes billboards have gone up in Manhattan. One is the big Penn Station board on Seventh Avenue. There is also a promoted tweet for Facebook and Twitter geo-targeted for New York City. Nissan’s Facebook and Twitter pages will also carry the #HailYes banner.
A major obstacle is that a couple of months ago a lower court ruled that the Taxi and Limo Commission lacks the authority to decide on the “Taxi of Tomorrow” parameters. The mayor is appealing, but whether De Blasio is on board is unknown at this point.