LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - The Chinese-owned maker of London’s black cabs opened a new factory in central England on Wednesday to produce electric taxis which it also hopes to sell overseas for the first time to cities keen on the famous brand and concerned about pollution.
The London Taxi Company plant near the city of Coventry is Britain’s first electric vehicle factory and will help the firm to expand overseas as part of a 300 million pound ($375 million) investment.
The move is the latest stage in the turnaround of a company which was saved from bankruptcy just over four years ago by China’s Geely and is also a welcome boost for Britain as it prepares to start divorce proceedings from the European Union.
“This plant, and the related investment, is just one symbol of my own and the wider Chinese confidence in the UK,” Geely Chairman Li Shufu wrote in an article in Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
The first electric taxi to be built in the factory will go on sale in Britain in late 2017 with sales in Europe due at the start of next year.
From January, all new cabs in London have to be zero-emissions capable, meaning they cannot be diesel and must be either fully electric or hybrid, according to rules introduced by the mayor of London.
Executives from the taxi maker, which traces its origins back to 1899 and was bought by Geely in 2013, have visited cities such as Oslo, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin in recent months, but have yet to decide on the first foreign market.
“Today marks the rebirth of the London Taxi Company. A company with a singular vision; to design and build dedicated urban commercial vehicles that can operate without emissions in cities around the world and bring down running costs for drivers,” said Chief Executive Chris Gubbey. ($1 = 0.8012 pounds) (Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Keith Weir)