Why are most of the taxis in Hong Kong the ex­act same model?

HK Magazine - - HOME - – Cab BB

All hail the Toy­ota Crown Com­fort, the hum­ble ve­hi­cle that’s hauled us all home from hun­dreds of late nights, or carted us hun­gover to work the next morn­ing. The Toy­ota Crown Com­fort, most re­gal char­iot—un­less you want to cross the har­bor, of course.

In the old days, taxis were less tightly reg­u­lated and you’d see a wide range of col­ors and mod­els on the streets. The govern­ment be­gan reg­u­lat­ing their ap­pear­ance in 1974, de­cree­ing the sil­ver-and-red color scheme still in use to­day. In fact, there’s no ac­tual law stip­u­lat­ing the model of car used as a taxi—and in­deed, you’ll see the oc­ca­sional Nis­san, Ford Tran­sit van or Prius taxi around town. But an ex­tra­or­di­nary ma­jor­ity of all Hong Kong taxis are Crown Com­forts.

It’s an as­ton­ish­ingly suc­cess­ful model, in pro­duc­tion since 1995—and re­cently up­dated in 2001 to a more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly LPG ver­sion. In­deed, Toy­ota has had a pretty ef­fec­tive mo­nop­oly on the mar­ket ever since squeez­ing Nis­san out of town a decade ago. Re­peated at­tempts by other man­u­fac­tur­ers to break in have all ended in failure.

So why are they so pop­u­lar? A few rea­sons, all of which boil down to cost. Firstly, a new Toy­ota Crown Com­fort costs around $230,000—ap­prox­i­mately $20,000 less than the Ford Tran­sits in­tro­duced last year.

Then there’s the sheer num­ber of Crown Com­forts in Hong Kong’s taxi ecosys­tem: If the vast ma­jor­ity of the 18,000 cabs in Hong Kong are Crown Com­forts, then you’re work­ing with economies of scale. Any garage me­chanic could ser­vice one blind­fold, and would have plenty of spare parts on hand—all the more so be­cause the same mod­els are used as taxis in Ja­pan, too. When Ja­panese taxis are re­tired, of­ten they’re bro­ken apart and make their way to Hong Kong to be used in our cars.

So the next time you tum­ble out of a taxi af­ter a night of rev­elry, take the time to thank the Crown Com­fort for get­ting you home quickly, safely and cheaply. And for God’s sake, throw up out­side the ve­hi­cle. Spare parts may come cheap, but they don’t come free.

The jewel in the Crown

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