Victory for Metrocabs’ hybrid taxis after legal battle

Hundreds of petrol-electric-powered hybrid black cabs could be on the streets of London within months after a lawsuit accusing the manufacturer of copycat design was thrown out by the High Court yesterday.
The Times reports that Frazer-Nash, which makes Metrocabs, said that it would push ahead with production of the low-emission, six-seater black cab after the “passing off” claim by its main rival, London Taxi Company, was rejected.
The Chinese-owned LTC had accused Frazer-Nash, a descendant of a racing car maker, of copying its familiar shape to deceive taxi drivers and passengers into thinking the new cab was an LTC.
Mr Justice Arnold concluded there was only a low degree of similarity between the vehicles after looking at them in a line-up. He declared invalid LTC’s claims that its trademarks had been infringed. “There is no evidence that the shape of the new Metrocab is likely to lead consumers of taxi services to believe that it comes from the same source as LTC’s taxis,” he ruled.
The new battery-powered vehicle with its distinctive sightseeing panoramic roof will meet stringent emissions limits due to come into force in 2018.
Kamal Siddiqi, the chairman of Frazer-Nash, rescued the old Metrocab — responsible for the boxy, draughty and bottom-crunching cabs — out of bankruptcy 13 years ago and aims to revive it with the new model.
Competition is fierce. LTC dominates, with Mercedes and Nissan fighting for cabbie approval. About 21,000 black cabs ply for trade in London alone.
Mr Siddiqi said: “We are looking forward to finishing the production version of the new Metrocab and putting them on the road later this year.”
Peter Johansen, chief executive of LTC, said: “We are understandably disappointed by the judge’s ruling. We will review the ruling to determine our way forward.”
The new Metrocab will sell at about £35,000, similar to other black cabs. It is capable of being powered by a battery for 50 miles before switching to a small petrol engine with a range of a further 300 miles.
It claims to save the average cabbie £40 a day on fuel, with carbon emissions of less than 50g/km — a quarter the level of conventional cabs. They will be made by Multimatic in Coventry.