News : Manganese Bronze to be bought by Geely?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

London's iconic black cabs may soon become a common sight on the streets, with Geely producing the TX4 in China
London’s iconic black cabs may soon become a common sight on the streets, with Geely producing the TX4 in China

Following months of trouble, Manganese Bronze, the company that builds the TX4 London Black cab, went into administration in October – and Chinese carmaker Geely is interested in buying the company as a going concern from the administrators.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) the administrators called in to try and find a buyer for Manganese Bronze on 12 October – either as a going concern, or broken up – has been talking to a number of interested parties. But it looks like that the company’s Joint Venture partner in China, Geely, is emerging as the favourite, dropping heavy hints to the Chinese media that it would like to buy the embattled taxi-maker in a manor reminiscent of MG Rover’s sale to the Chinese in 2005.

Geely and Manganese Bronze’s Joint Venture had been in place since 2006, and had seen much of the black cab’s production moved to China, with cars shipped all over the world since. UK-‘built’ TX4s were assembled from Chinese built kits. But after a number of quality issues, causing costly recalls, the loss-making British company threw in the towel.

Geely’s interest in Manganese Bronze grew to a 20 per cent ownership stake; and taking the remaining 80 per cent from the administrators would ensure control of production. But more interestingly, Geely showed a selection of ‘concepts’ (below) at the 2012 Beijing motor show (alongside a TX4), which owed more than a little to the taxi’s styling. It signalled that the company wants to give its Emigrand range a bit of an English twist – and just like SAIC and Chery, Geely is looking to start exporting its cars to the UK.

And having a base in Coventry would be very useful indeed.

Geely concept (2)

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
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55 Comments

  1. I’d like to add something positive, but I can’t. Geely sold them down the river.

    I hope Frazer-Nash acts quickly (and positively) to woo the union flag brandishing traditional Lahndan’ cabbie. Your average badge brandishing cabbie isn’t daft, he /she normally has a memory like an elephant, not the fickle public.

  2. I had a feeling this would happen…I just hope that some jobs do come out of this for the old workforce, who were quite frankly treated like crap, and the firm was driven onto the rocks by the Chinese, not sorting that dangerous steering fault

  3. This is very sad news for British manufacturing interests and the jobs that depended on Manganese Bronze. Going by this article which refers to more recent activities involving the assembly of the TX4 from Chinese built kits, Geely clearly does not recognise the importance of maintaining, let alone raising, standards of quality in the all-important UK market.

  4. Hmmm, where have we heard this before time and time again, I’d like to see a glimmer of hope but cant see one, the fact is that the Chinese still do not understand western ways and so still dont understand product quality and customer relations. I suppose what more can you expect from communism??
    On my first trip down to London the other week for over 12 months I was surprised by the amount of Mercedes Vito cabs that had started plying there trade.

    I fear that even in London its too late for the TX4

  5. Well how many have been off the road with the steering box fault I wonder, and the cabbies have just got hacked off, and swapped em for Mercs? I’m sorry but really I don’t trust the Chinese one bit, and that includes the jokers that are in charge of Longbridge

  6. Geely already have so much of the intellectual capital, it would be difficult for any other buyer…

    The Merc cabs are indeed becoming quite popular, but there are still plenty of new TX4s around. The Mercs are much nicer to drive…

  7. Why bother with the TX4? Nissan have their NV200 van based “london Black cab” said to be 100% compliant with the Metropolitan Cab regulations.

  8. Whats that SUV that looks like a taxi?

    It is a shame, but these things move on. In the US, most taxis I saw were Toyota Camrys, with the Nissan NV200 to be the new NY Cab.

    Perhaps if Nissan made a cab that had a retro look? It would sell well in Japan, as per the Nissan Figaro and those S-type style Micras?

  9. I am still reeling at at the decision in NYC to have the Nissan as the new cab, looks awful. The Crown Vics are cramped and thirsty but at least they sound good and look like a cab should.

    I don’t blame anyone who drives a taxi for wanting a Merc as the TX’s are neither spacious, refined or economical to run. However they do look the part and they should stay as a result, they can be further developed. I don’t care whether they are made in China or here we just don’t need a city full of Merc vans driving around.

  10. The Nissan equivalent is pictured here (sorry as close as I could get!) If Nissan IS stuffing a Leaf drivetrain underneath, things get very British….

  11. i agree with yorkie well said mate you just can not trust junk from china. i was a big fan of mg cars for years not any more they can not con me with the chinese built mg 6 and have the cheek to call it british when all they do is at longbridge is drop the chinese engine in fill up with oil water and fuel and send it out to the dealer.

  12. It seems incredulous that some people are happy to see consumers forced into buying efficient and clean models, but when it comes to a Taxi, they don;t care as long as it reminds them of the good old days. In Amercia the Crown Vics are daft, small yet massive, and about as frugal and clean as Bella Emberg. I haven’t been able to understand why any Taxi driver would spens £30k on the LTI anyway, you can buy so much better. Any interest remaining in LTI and any meagre patents/designs they may have can only be put down to romantacism – and that doesn’t make commercial sense

  13. James.. one word

    Tourism

    How many folk flock to London just to see a Routemaster or hop in a black cab?

    Bloody lots… Romanticism may not generate money, but the Yanks – Japs & Germans… certainly do!

  14. Keep a few black cabs on for tourist duty. Thats what they do in Belfast, taking them on ‘Terror tours’, taking them round murals, sights, and the sites of bombings and massacres. Tourists are very into that.

  15. I started the exterior advertising on London taxicabs in 1982 & then worked with LTI (then Carbodies) to produce the ‘Q’ cab, a brand new FX4 taxi using the old Nuffield 2.5 litre engine imported from India.

    As the FX4R was hopeless – using an under powered 2.2 litre Landrover engine originally made for the Swiss army, we outsold the official London distributor(Mann & Overton) constistantly.

    In conjunction with Grant Lockhart & Carbodies’ American distributor, we raised the funds to buy the company backed by Bankers Trust.

    Dennis Poore, Chairman of Manganese Bronze, (who destroyed the British motorbike industry) shook hands with our Banker, Walter Marlowe, only to change his mind the next day as he ‘liked seeing his product wizzing around the City of London on his way to lunch’.

    Our business plan would have ensured the future of the traditional London taxicab, and kept production at Hollywood Road.

    Andrew Overton, then Sales Director of the London distributors, was always interested in moving production to Asia when he wasn’t selling his farm eggs to the employees in Coventry – really I’m not joking – this was his main reason for a weekly visit to the Midlands!

    Frankly I despair about the future of non-JLR/Japanese motor manufacture in Britain.

    Why do our police buy Mercedes vans & BMWs – I do not see the French or Germans buying non national product.

    Why are the Royal Family used by Audi as marketing tools?

    Why don’t we send our huge overseas aid programme in product not cash – let the dictators drive Jags not Mercs.

    Sorry, this is a rant after a really good lunch – I really wish the workforce at LTI the best of luck but I cannot see Geely doing anything else but using the company as a sales/marketing outlet.

    David Abrahams

  16. I see a challenge for the Mayor of London Boris Johnson: just as he did with a modern 21st Century new bus for London, set a similar challenge for automotive designers to come up with a new taxi for London inspired by the FX and TX4.

    Then hopefully the winning design will be handed over to a vehicle manufacturer with manufacturing interests in the UK, whether of cars or commercial vehicles, and built under a licensing agreement here in the UK. That way some of Britain’s pride remains intact, in terms of promoting new manufacturing jobs in the UK and tourism on an international basis, while we are also seen to have taken the concept of a London taxi forward beyond the TX4. Even better, perhaps there will be a profitable export opportunity for such a new taxi where it can genuinely claim to have been “made in Great Britain”.

    In a lose sort of way it is an interesting idea.

  17. The thing is, the black cab shape is a tourist attraction in London, and tourists would in 99.9% of times get in a TX over a converted German van…

  18. The problem for taxis, when compared with buses, is the much lower cost. Buses cost 200-300k each, and are built in relatively small numbers whether a Borismaster or a Mercedes Citaro. Thus you can design and build a bespoke bus at a sensible price, if you want to.

    Producing 3000 taxis a year, to a unique bespoke design, is tough if opponents can produce a van derivative, riding on the back of 100k vans a year, and components shared with other models. I presume it’s only recently that converters have been able to make the necessary changes to allow vans to pass the strict London Taxi regulations, I wonder if the same could have been done to a FWD Renault Trafic van in the 80s?

  19. Somehow, I doubt the Renner Tragic could have met the turning circle requirements for the PCO in London, plus it would have been as durable as a choc ice in a heatwave LOL

  20. 253 cabs was fitted with the chinese sourced steering boxes,once the firm that made the original ones was told thier services were no longer required,this firm also made the Landrover/RangeRover steering boxes.Funnily enough the original supplier carried out the warranty work.

  21. Optare are you watching??

    Yes I know they are owned by India these days but it is Ashok Leyland,so a nice story for the sentimentalists. At least the product is produced here and the Indians will let the company get on with it without interfearing or not listening to its engineers, Hell the product will even feel British!

    If you geek up on it its surprising how many changes are required to convert both the Nissan and Merc to London PCO regs,the main sticking point being the turning circle, The Merc has 4 wheel steer, while the Nissan has bespoke track ang geometry to achieve it.

    Either way the TX4 needs modernising, Hybrid, Electric or Fuel Cells are the way forward certainly in the short term to fit in with the rest of TFL’s transport schemes.

    Whatever happens the cab needs to retain its style and feel as what has been said about tourists is bang on, silly things like the London cab is what brings the Nikkon Carrying, Baseball cap wearers over here in the first place which has to be a good thing. If you want further evidence of how important the London cab shape is just look at Metrocab…… Who?

  22. By the time this whole sorry tale is over and Geely have picked up the remaining 80% of the value of the company for a song, I would expect that the whole brand and (any remaining perception of quality) to be so badly tarnished that there won’t be an importers in the UK small enough to cope with the demand.

    History shows us that the technique of driving a company into receivership, before buying the remnants for a song (and wrecking any remaining brand equity and customer loyalty in the process), didn’t work out that well last time another organisation tried it.

  23. I do not buy the heritage argument, a cab is a cab and a means of transport for the majority, even if the TX4 is saved, where is the money going to be found to keep it up to date with Euro 6 emissions etc?, those spiraling costs, spread over such a limited production run must be astronomic.
    Another point is the feast or famine situation for orders of the cabs, I’m sure Nissan can cope with that, but for the TX4 for which yearly sales may halve or double depending on the feel good factor of the economy, does not bode well for the TX4.
    The TX4 situation is following the path of Reliant, makers of the famous 3-wheeler, loyal customers, but not enough of them.

  24. @Ex X Power
    The reason I was wondering why the Trafic (or similar) wasn’t adapted in the 80s, is that fundamentally FWD vans haven’t changed much during the last 30 years, and the mods such as 4ws could have been produced 30 years ago – didn’t Honda produce a Prelude with 4ws?

    I suspect back then, cabbies were more happy with the product, as the FX4 back then was relatively competitive with then current cars and vans, but with the pace of development, has been left behind.

  25. The two key words here are “steering” and “box”. Honestly, rack & pinion is pretty well-proven now. At least the thing doesn’t have cart springs out back any more.

    Anything else from the Austin Heavy Twelve being used…?

  26. Who would blame Geely for buying the place out for a song?any cool headed businessman/venture(vulture)capitalist would if there is an earner to be made assets or otherwise,failure of this firm has its antecedence in the austin days,never moving and keeping abreast of the times,coupled with green/Co2 bollocks.Can you imagine Chuck Fudpucker from the U.S saying gee,when i was in engerland,i had myself a ride in a Datsun NV200 taxi?nah me niether.

  27. I have said before that a new cab is needed and both the dreadful merc and better looking Nissan strike me as half baked round pegs made to fit square holes (sorry for the mixed metaphors)

    Within Geely there is some good hardware – Volvo springs to mind – can this be used to make a true successor to the TX4 in the way Rover made the R3 and MGF from bits of car they had lying around and with the loose change they found down the back of the sofa in Longbridge’s reception area!

    Also, now Geely has proper control they can develop properly – do we know they imposed the steering box on Manganese Bronze or did they try and eek out some profit

  28. The LDV Pilot & Convoy still used steering boxes right up to the end of production I believe, but this is just a repeat again of a company being driven onto the rocks, and the Chinese snapping them up for a fraction of the true value, and the Chinese actually caused the collapse in the first place, thanks to them ignoring that flipping steering fault. I’m beginning to think the whole sorry incident has been deliberately caused, so that they could get control for peanuts.

  29. 29: “The better looking Nissan”. I haven’t seen one of those yet, only the ugly NV200 so far. If they are planning to produce something else that’s better looking that the Merc, I’d be very interested to see it….

  30. But MINI were planning on selling 100,000 a year, an FX4 replacement might reach into the high 100’s a year. How on Earth could anyone spread the R&D, type approval and tooling costs across so few cars? Especially when competitors are moving into the market with converted vans and the “new” FX4 would have to be virtually hand built, even in China?

  31. Its about time the western world woke up instead of sleepwalking into being dominated by the Chinese and their poor quality products. Bean counters just think “oh its cheaper to make this widget in a sweatshop in China rather than the UK/USA” etc. Who is going to buy the widget in the west if no-one is working because their jobs have gone due to “Globalisation”? At the same time the Chinese are supplying the west with garbage (Mattel toys with the lead paint as an example).

  32. Well I know that this rant is going to sound similar to the one I posted back in October last year . I had the priveledge of working for LTI and laterly the London Taxi Company for 10 years .I have a good amount of affection for the product and the company. Sadly Geely don’t have any such feelings . If they did, why wait until now when the damage has been done. The damage to the credibility of the vehicle, the loss of skilled workers( not just in the factory in Coventry)but in the dealerships in London , Manchester not to mention the closure of the sites in Leeds and Glasgow.
    The wisdom of having a Chinese partner was obvious as the cost of sourceing part is lower but, at the cost of QUALITY ! Some parts sourced from China were acceptable but as I said back in Oct 2012 , some backsides need kicking for the quality checking of particulary the steering boxes.
    As for buying a TX4,well. Just take a look at the picture of the ‘ New Nissan Van ‘ err sorry that should read cab.Look how close the back doors of that vehicle are in relation to the position of the rear seating position`. Consider this . You are relaxing in the back of said van and it is hit from the rear . What, if any protection would those doors offer?? Do van convertions have rear doors with Side Impact Beams ? Answer ….NO The TX4 has it’s faults I agree but,it is a purpose built and very strong Taxi …NOT A VAN.
    Geely as acompany I would not trust as far as I could throw one of their substandard steering boxes. Let the company go to a prominent company , one with a bit more expertise in engineering

  33. If I take a Taxi in Europe exapt GB I would take a Mercedes E class because that is the ultimate car for that job. If I am in GB it should be an original London Taxi like the FX4. I never drove in the 1990th with a Metrocab becaus these cars looked horrible. At that time I drove with the original London Taxi. I think for a tourist and somebody who will be a lttle bit patriotic there will be no other Taxi in London as a TX4.

  34. @ Russell G:

    Your comments ring rather true, unfortunately. A friend of mine has just found that the Chinese-made electronic ignition in his MGB has failed after less than three years of service, even though the car is an occasional use classic. The previous Lucas item lasted over eight years, including after a three period when it was lying idle whilst the car was undergoing a ground-up rebuilt.

    @ David Abrahams:

    I agree entirely with your views on this although you forgot to mention:

    Why don’t British supermarkets such as the Co-operative and Tesco buy British made delivery vans and trucks, in preference to Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen?

    Why are fewer and fewer of our MPs driving British made cars?

  35. @David 3500, What British made vans?

    Vauxhall Vivaro?? Utter tosh, made out of lettuce, fine as trademans van but completely unsuited to constant stop starting, which is why Sprinters are used by nearly all delivary companies.

    The reason they have poor load capacity is because they are built like tanks and can cope with stop start as well as they can living in the outside lane.

    But as for MP’s there’s no excuse, they and Royalty should all be in british built cars

  36. There are no real British vans to speak of, apart from badly nailed together Renners with Vauxhall badges on. Tesco are now using Ivecos for some perverse reason, probably because they are dirt cheap??

  37. Are the Ivecos not hybrids?

    Ivecos tenuous connections to the British car industry – the Iveco Massif was a rebadged Santana which was a licenced Land Rover Series build. They took control of Ford Trucks, including the successful Ford Cargo designed by Ford UK.

    Iveco Dailys used to be the delivery man’s vehicle of choice, before they fell for the Sprinter.

    “Why are the Royal Family used by Audi as marketing tools?”

    Makes sense for a german company to use a german celebrity family, shirley?….

    One thing VWgroup good at is marketing, as the brainwashing over the last couple of decades or so has led to success in the UK market.

  38. @ Ex X Power:

    I was thinking of LDV vans. That is, until that company collapsed in 2010, resulting in another lift ‘n’ shift operation to China…

  39. The Ivecos that my local Tesco have are 100% diesel mate, basic 3.5t single wheel chassis,and bang on Will about the ‘Royals’, perfect sense for them, however, if they were of Indian origin, Jag’s would be perfect. Anyhow, doesn’t Phil the Greek own a TX?

  40. I’ve heard that apart from a few niggles, that the Iveco Daily is basically a sound van- although I don’t have that much insight as I’ve driven Mercedes Sprinters and Transits- who’s build quality appears roughly equal- that is, not all that special. Although Transits appear to be better rustproofed than their poorly painted German competition.

  41. Off topic, I know, but I hadn’t realised that the royal family were driving Skoda Vanden Plas, sorry, Audi cars.

    I’ve just seen a photograph of Prince Charles and Camilla in a Audi A6. It’s a piece of marketing genius; I can’t think of a better way of making even an Audi A6 look relatively beautiful, than for it to have to share a picture with those two. However, at least these hoorays are no longer tarnishing the image of Jaguar Land Rover by their association.

  42. @43,Forget what you hear they are dogmeat,very poor canbus and electrical system and expensive to maintain and repair,can carry weight though.

  43. Getting back on topic, would Geely buy the rest of the company, move the entire manufacturing process to China (or, maybe, leave just enough in the UK to avoid import duties and describe them as “British Engineered” – perhaps by simply putting the Chinese built engines in and bolting the suspension and exhaust on?) and then use what remnants of the sales operation to continue to sell the TX4?

    I can’t see how this would work. The TX4 sells into a small market in the UK with increasing competition, while I don’t think that it’s been a sales success in Asia either.

    I’m not sure where they would go with this….

  44. @48,it both ‘boxes,the early five speeds leaked through the driveshaft gaitor and the six has weak synchros,very expensive second hand or to repair,general concensus is replace after 80k

  45. The FX dates back to the 1960s really, and Boris has but a nice age limit on the cabs. I think rust is quite an issue on older cabs too, and then there is the cost of new Euro 6 engines, which will be in their thousands, plus replacement gearboxes/axles/brakes. London cabs have a stupidly hard life, and many of the old FX’s will have more than liklely long passed the half million mile mark.

  46. @44 Skoda Vanden Plas PMSL! My mate has just got himself a SEAT Exeo – All the Audi you want without the snobbery. (Sorry for going off topic)

  47. Evening Folks
    I was one off 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 timeof under 2 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.

  48. Taxis are used throughout Britain, not just London and in places where operators are permitted to buy a vehicle of choice,(It’s called freedom), no one would consider a TX4, they are bloody hopeless. A Skoda for example, is modern,reliable,efficient and costs a fraction to operate and buy. It’s time London left the Dickensian age behind.

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