In November 2010, New York City launched a "Taxi of Tomorrow" design contest to replace the aging fleet of Ford Crown Victorias. The winner would enjoy a huge business opportunity - the exclusive right to supply the city's yellow taxis for 10 years.
To put in perspective, the taxi industry in New York City has over 50,000 licensed taxi drivers and 13,437 licensed vehicles, serving over 500,000 passengers per day, or 236 million taxi passengers per year, according to the "2014 Taxicab Fact Book" issued by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC).
The contest officials laid out these criteria for selecting the winner:
Ford, Nissan, and Turkey's Karsan made the finalists.
When the finalist designs were put to vote in surveys, Karsan's design, with the sleek Plexiglas top and wheelchair accessibility, won the heart of New Yorkers with overwhelming 65.5% vote, while cab owners voted for Ford perhaps because of their familiarity with the company's present products.
Then came the final and unexpected decision: Taxi and Limousine Commission and officials governing the city's taxi industry selected Nissan as the winner. One blogger even wrote, "After going to the public and taxi cab owners, the city settled on the one design nobody else liked, the Nissan NV."
Why did Karsan and Ford lose? Based on many published reports, it was not the case of these two finalists being able to meet the criteria less satisfactory than the winner.
In terms of track record, Ford TransitConnect is the only model that has been used as a taxi all over in the US. Nissan NV is essentially a passenger van in Japan, never before outfitted as a taxi or road-tested in the US. Karsan's V1 is "the only model that was designed from a scratch" as a taxi vehicle for this contest. Karsan's track record is not shabby, either. Although the brand is not well known outside Turkey, they supply to Hyundai, Peugeot, Citroen and Renault. [CNN Tech, December 6, 2010, by Catriona Davies].
Was the origin of the vehicle a decisive factor? No, said one commissioner. While the Nissan NV 200 will be produced in Tennessee, the Ford Transit Connect will be shipped from Turkey. Karsan, at one point, even offered to produce V1 taxis in Brooklyn if their design was selected.
So, what happened?
We admit having no insider knowledge on the regulatory or political considerations of the decision making involved. But three things that we noticed from a QFD perspective might help future contestants in a similar situation:
Since two of the candidate vehicles -- Ford and Karsan, were Turkish, and both lost the contest despite passenger and cab owner delight, it would seem that the criteria/needs of the TLC (New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission) should have also been considered using the QFD methods described above. In ten years, perhaps the results will be different.
© QFD Institute