If you’ve ever been to London, you’ll be familiar with them: the black taxis of the British London Electric Vehicle Company, LEVC for short. The bodywork company Mann and Overton's introduced the black cab in 1908. It quickly became the most successful taxi in London. And by 1914 it had already displaced all the others. The traditional company has focused on these taxis ever since – and has been on the verge of bankruptcy several times. Its niche was too small.
In 2017, the now wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese vehicle manufacturer Geely will make its first leap into new mobility with the TX electric taxi. But this is only thanks to the former Audi manager Jörg Hofmann, who was brought into the company at the beginning of 2019 and has managed to turn around the economically ailing LEVC, making it fit for the future. A lot has happened since then.
Major European offensive
Hofmann joined the company with the aim of making the traditional company a leading manufacturer of electric vehicles. He rebuilt the factory, streamlined production and stabilised supply chains. “Speed, performance and trust” is the new order of the day. But the most important thing for Hofmann was the development of a new growth strategy: “To get LEVC out of the taxi niche, we are tapping into new export markets and developing new products.”
According to LEVC, it has sold more than 4000 TX electric taxis so far. In addition to Europe, the e-taxi is also to be introduced in Japan, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. However, the focus remains on Europe: last year, the British established a new central sales office in Frankfurt. “From here, we want to build up a sales and service network throughout Europe. Our export strategy is to switch from ten per cent to 60 per cent export by 2022,” says Hofmann.
At the same time, LEVC is about to launch a second product: the electric van VN5. At Hypermotion in Frankfurt in November 2020, it is to be presented to an audience outside the UK for the first time. “We want to serve a commercial vehicle sector that is currently still dominated by diesel-powered products. The VN5 has a range of more than 480 kilometres and can be charged from zero to 100 per cent in 30 minutes. Not only can it be used for the last mile, but it can also be used on several trips as part of a 'distribution-to-door' operation,” says Hofmann.
From now on, the company is to consist of three pillars of production: the classic taxi business, shuttle vehicles and electric transporters. Shuttle providers such as Clever Shuttle and the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary Ioki already have LEVC vehicles in use. But the company is also breaking new ground beyond this: with ‘Pay as you drive’, for example, it offers an innovative and flexible financing solution together with its partner Octopus Group. It links repayments to income, so that buyers are not tied to payments if they are out of work for any period of time. This makes it easier for taxi drivers and fleet operators to switch to emissions-free vehicles. A lot is still to happen and Jörg Hofmann is sure about one thing in particular: “Our company creates trends rather than following them.”
- Alternative Drives