By Costas Pitas
LONDON (Reuters) - A new electric version of London's classic black cabs will arrive on the streets of Amsterdam next year, the first export market for the new model as the London Taxi Company, the Chinese-owned manufacturer, seeks to sell half its output abroad.
The firm, which will formally change its name to the London EV Company later this year, is undergoing a rapid expansion since it was bought out of bankruptcy by China's Geely in 2013, opening a new plant in Coventry, central England, earlier this year.
By the turn of the decade it hopes to sell to overseas markets 50 percent of the roughly 10,000 vehicles to be produced each year, including a yet to be launched van, and has been showing the new electric plug-in hybrid taxi in a number of European cities.
Chief Executive Chris Gubbey told Reuters the firm had picked the Netherlands as its first export market due to its receptiveness to new technology and the new model's compatibility with the needs of disabled people, including its ramp and high roof.
"It is a city that is very progressive in terms of protecting and improving its air quality," he told Reuters.
"They just recognize what the product can do for their market: the accessibility, the ease of getting in and out," he said.
Amsterdammers will not be able to hail the taxi in the street but instead it will be available as part of a municipal contract hire service provided by Dutch firm RMC to transport the elderly and disabled, including to and from hospital, he said.
RMC's chief operating officer told Reuters the firm had yet to decide whether the 225 vehicles it is acquiring would be painted black color but said she was confident London cabs would prove a hit in the city and could also be used later in Rotterdam.
"This car takes away all the boundaries and all the differences because it is possible to transport everybody, give everybody the same experience in a beautiful car and because it is purpose-built," Rohany Amat told Reuters.
"And it is a sustainable car. That is very important," she said.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Greg Mahlich)