The Karsan van, with a retractable wheelchair ramp, got a lot of support in Brooklyn when the company promised to build a factory in Sunset Park.
The Karsan V1, an oblong Turkish van vying to become the exclusive vehicle of the New York City taxi fleet, has features that would make a Crown Victoria weep: London-style jump seats; a moon roof for panoramic views; even a pledge to build the cars in Brooklyn. (The Crown Vic, the fleet’s old mainstay, was made in Canada.)
“How can we possibly reject this proposal?” Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, said at a rally he organized on Sunday to support the van.
The Bloomberg administration is set to present a few reasons why.
The Karsan van has been rejected by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, according to a city official who has been informed of the decision, and who insisted on anonymity because it had not been made public. The rejection came after a review raised concerns about whether the Turkish company, untested in the American market, could reliably execute the high-concept product it had designed.
That leaves the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow competition — which will award a contract for the next decade’s yellow cabs — with two contenders. Both finalists were submitted by more established automakers and are less aesthetically distinct: the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200 vans. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to announce the selection this week.
Karsan’s bid attracted far more attention than its competitors’, earning international headlines as a stylish new look for the traditional New York cab. Its makers hired Rubenstein Associates, the public relations firm, to supervise a media campaign, and the vehicle attracted strong support by advocates for the disabled because of its retractable wheelchair ramp.
But an analysis commissioned by the city concluded that Karsan would present the “highest risk” to the taxi industry if chosen for the 10-year contract. The report, prepared by an automotive consultant, Ricardo Inc., put it bluntly: While Karsan had demonstrated “the will and technical capability” to build its proposed taxi, the company was “a new manufacturer, with a new manufacturing paradigm, not familiar with the U.S. regulatory framework, with no current sales, service or support infrastructure” in the United States, according to the report, excerpts of which were obtained by The New York Times.
The consultant appeared concerned about whether Karsan, which has rarely tried to design and build a new vehicle from scratch, had “fully evaluated the risks and countermeasures required to ensure that their product will deliver and maintain the same level of maturity as that of their competitors over the life of the contract.”
Jan Nahum, the executive director of Karsan, said in a statement that he was shocked that he had not been directly notified of the decision, and he described the premature release of the report as inappropriate. “Furthermore,” he added, “we were unaware of any such report, and the concerns reportedly raised in it have never been expressed to us.”
Karsan said last month that it was prepared to build a plant in Sunset Park, potentially creating hundreds of jobs. The announcement was hailed by some city politicians, including several who spoke at Mr. Markowitz’s event outside Brooklyn Borough Hall on Sunday.
“Imagine the rebirth of solid, union, middle-income jobs,” Mr. Markowitz said. And Julie Kushner, a United Auto Workers director who also spoke at the rally, said Karsan’s selection would “represent the first auto assembly jobs in the city for decades.”
While Karsan has been eliminated, city officials are said to have encountered drawbacks in all three finalists.
Ford’s submission, for its existing Transit Connect van, was viewed early on as problematic and uninspired, and some taxi officials were taken aback to see the city include the car as a finalist.
At one point, the Ford entry was considered “a fallback” that could be picked if other, more exciting options did not pan out, according to two individuals with direct knowledge of the city’s deliberations who requested anonymity because the discussions were supposed to be private.
City Hall officials would not comment on internal deliberations. But Mayor Bloomberg appeared to allude to Karsan’s perceived problems on his radio program last week.
“You’ve got to look at how much experience companies have had in building cars,” he said on Friday.
Juliet Linderman contributed reporting.