Eco City Vehicles has appointed a new chief executive as the distributor for the Mercedes-made rivals to traditional London black cabs prepares for a third manufacturer to enter the market.
Trevor Parker, a veteran of Dixon Motors and Lookers and a former chief executive of a caravan retailer, on Tuesday took over from Peter DaCosta, the company’s founder
Mr DaCosta, who will become one of two non-executive directors and a consultant to Eco City, helped develop the Mercedes “Vito” model as the first rival to the traditional black cabs made in Coventry by Manganese Bronze.
The Vito won over a large swath of London cabbies relatively quickly as Eco City capitalised on recalls and poor customer service at Manganese Bronze. It now commands 40 per cent of new sales.
As Manganese stumbled last year, in part because of IT problems, Eco City moved from an operating loss to a profit on revenues that rose 40 per cent.
Manganese entered administration six months ago and was bought out of it in February by its biggest shareholder, Geely, the Chinese carmaker that also owns Volvo. But a revived Manganese is not Eco City’s biggest challenge over the coming year. Both companies will face new competition when Nissan begins selling its NV200 London taxi later this year or early next.
Nissan is expected to attract new customers through vehicles with lower fuel burn – which will bring down cabbies’ operating costs – and the strong reputation in London of its engines, one of which powered one of Manganese’s most popular marques.
“We’ll be fighting tooth and nail for market share,” said Mr Parker on Tuesday, citing competitive financing packages as one tool in his arsenal. “It’s about the cost of ownership of the vehicle in the round.”
He said that he would target the non-London UK market for growth, and would consider international markets as well – a project the board had mulled even before his arrival.
Mr Parker’s predecessor, Mr DaCosta, used to drive a cab and experimented with liquefied gas-powered and hybrid vehicles before striking gold with a plan to adapt Mercedes minivans to meet the demanding requirements of London’s Public Carriage Office, which licenses cabs in the capital.
Shares in Eco City, trading at about 1¾p this week, have risen 8 per cent in the past year but are sharply off January highs of 2½p.