Blog : Manganese Bronze – the insider’s view
I was one of the 156 made redundant by LTI in October, so hope I can throw in my penny’s worth …
A lot has been said about the TX4 needing to be updated. This is very true, it was starved of development cash and the number of R&D staff at LTI had already been reduced by over 60% over a two year period – the directors actually converted their department into a plush new directors suite! How ironic.
To the public, it did appear that LTI were looking at new, greener drivetrains – especially the much publicised hydrogen fuel cell TX4. This was a sham, they did practically nothing in developing this, but some creative accounting ensured that government grants were passed between the ‘pioneering’ development partners. Hydrogen will not work anyway, not without the fuelling infrastructure – just ask Honda.
LTI directors had a golden opportunity to save the company as far back as two years ago, in the shape of a fully engineered electric TX4 developed by a Dutch company. Electrification is one of the few things that is in the TX4′s favour. With its old fashioned ladder chassis, it can carry twice the battery power of a ‘modern’ monocoque vehicle. Hence why the eTX4s operating in Amsterdam had a range of 250km, more than enough for a taxi shift – and a fast charge time of under two hours.
So what did the exhalted leader of LTI do when he discovered that a third party had developed this sure fire winner for him? Nothing. For fear of losing hydrogen grant monies and worried that LTI’s Chinese partners would ‘steal’ the technology (plus a blinkered ‘it’ll never take off’ attitude), the CEO of LTI never even got of his well paid butt to view the car. Now, the chance is gone.
It would be easy for me to appear as a bitter ex-employee, but it’s more than that. Some of the decisions taken over the past 6 years by the Manganese Bronze and LTI boards have been bordering on criminal negligence. It’s no surprise either that of the 156 people made redundant in October, not a single one was a director. Despite the administrators running the company from that date, all directors remain in employment to this day.
Anyway, enough of my rant. What happens next? Geely will buy out the remains of LTI. NOT because they want to develop the TX4. All they want to do is ensure that they are not the ones seen to have killed the iconic London Cab. They will produce it in China and use the UK operation as a sales arm only. The reason why? They want to break into the UK general car market and don’t need negative PR at the outset, so they’ll ‘save’ the company and build a sales operation with a view to car sales, not taxis.
In reality, there are no assets to sell off – the Coventry site was sold and leased back years ago, so no other asset strippers would be interested. The numbers don’t make sense to any other party to manufacture the cabs, the development cash required is just too great.
I’ll leave it at that as I’ve just realised how much I’d typed – sorry for boring you all. What happens next to the London Taxi market is a very interesting one – although I know for a fact that it’s being protected using some pretty underhand measures at present. Boris is desperately trying to keep the current conditions in place in the hope that the London Cab will return – but I don’t think it will, and the market will legally have to open up.
The TX4 had the potential to be great. Great concept with a great workforce behind it – but it was put through a slow death by incompetent board direction. You cannot just blame the Chinese – they saw an opportunity and took it. Unfortunately, the blame lies very much closer to home.