Tuesday, November 19, 2019


There’s a longtime saying about New York, where few people ‘own’ cars - that New Yorkers only know two types of cars – yellow ones and black ones.

The hoi polloi take yellow cabs, whilst the tycoons and socialites use black limos.

For decades that business was ‘owned’ by Ford Motor Company, which sold thousands of Ford Crown Victorias to the cab companies; and Lincoln had a stranglehold on the limo market with the Lincoln Town Car.

They were basically the same car, with a body mounted on a ladder-frame chassis, but wearing different badges. As they weren’t monocoque construction they were labour-intensive, time-consuming and by modern standards, too expensive to build. So Ford decided, overnight, to abandon its dominant New York cab and limo business.

Lincoln did make an attempt to secure its market dominance, but instead of producing an imposing, low-line black passenger car, it merely put the Town Car badge on its then-current Lincoln Mark T.

Well, New Yorkers did not like arriving at premieres and red-carpet gigs in an ‘SUV’(!!)

Gradually Lincoln lost its share of the limo market.

However, Lincoln had ‘broken the mould’ and who stepped into its sector to take ownership? None other than its Detroit crosstown rival General Motors, so now there are hordes of big, black Chevrolet Suburbans cruising around the Apple.

Initially, as the distinctive yellow Crown Victorias aged and needed to be replaced it was Nissan which stepped in to try and fill the void, with perhaps the ugliest piece of design the car world has ever seen.

Sure, they were practical, but ugly as sin.

Initially Nissan sold plenty of these barges with twin sliding doors, but once again the mould had been broken and it was Toyota which jumped into the fray, first with hybrid Camrys; but as their back seat proved too cramped and uncomfortable for taller Americans, it was the ubiquitous Rav 4 which got the yellow paint job and a taxi medallion bolted to the hood.

It’s understandable why New Yorkers choose ‘hire by the trip’ transport, just look at the daily and monthly parking charges in one of the city’s hundreds of parking stations.

Also New York traffic is a nightmare, so who really wants to take on the traffic light grand prix, plus the dozens of ambulances, fire trucks and cop cars barging their way through the clogged streets?

Now, on the subject of inner city noise. When Rudy Giuliani was the Mayor, he instituted a ban on horn-blowing (which, in time has lapsed), but you'd have to say that now, New York is 'siren city' - 24 hours a day.

Lincoln has tried to worm its way back into the limo market for pretentious passengers with its Lincoln Continental, but even here the market has broken into shards, with the home-grown Cadillac XTS, and even Mercedes-Benz, vying for the limo company owners’ attention.
2020 Lincoln Continental (top) and Cadillac XTS

Just like most things in New York the cab and limo market is now a fruit salad of brands and badges, however, the public transport market has diversified even further with the disrupters, Uber, Lyft, Ola and Taxify.

Like everything else, the only thing permanent is change.


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