After being rescued by Geely back in 2013, the Coventry-based London Taxi Company (LTC) said it was looking at a number of potential new production sites in Britain, both in the Coventry area and elsewhere , as it looked at expanding production.

The good news is that LTC seem intent on building a new plant near Coventry, at the Ansty site (which the ‘old’ Regional Development Agency AWM spent a lot of time remediating and getting into shape for investors), near to the Manufacturing Technology Centre and the Rolls-Royce operation.

Confirmation of the firm’s interest can be found in a planning application on p25 of Rugby Borough Council’s Planning Committee meeting, scheduled for Wednesday 18th February, and which can be found here: http://www.rugby.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/537/planning_committee

The full application relates to the development of zone 6 of Ansty Park amounting to approximately 8.7ha (21.5 acres) The proposal comprises the erection of a general industrial production facility for LTC to be used primarily for assembling vehicles together with ancillary accommodation, parking and servicing.

According to the application, the rectangular building will provide a total over 25,000sq.m of floorspace with over 20,000sq.m in the main production/assembly hall and nearly 5,000sq.m in ancillary offices, reception/showroom and staff welfare facilities.

A service yard would be located on the south side of the proposed building and includes a dedicated area for the parking and storage of new vehicles together with ancillary structures including battery store, waste management area, a petrol storage area and filling point and car charging point. The layout also allows for the potential future expansion of the assembly hall on the east side with a “squeak and rattle” test track located on the eastern edge of the site to accommodate an extended facility .

Interestingly, it is noted that “In supporting information it is stated that the company intends to invest £200m to help develop advanced green taxi technology over the next five years with the aim of launching a zero-emission electric powered London taxi by 2018 and other vehicle variants of the same.

It adds “The assembly operations will be based on low volume production using skilled labour as opposed to automated high volume production with all components imported to the site from suppliers in the UK and abroad. It is anticipated that approximately 12,000 vehicles per year will be produced based on a single shift system.

“The development would initially employ 550 people with an anticipated increase to over 1000 employees in the next few years. The majority of the jobs would be new though it is intended that some employees will transfer from the company’s existing site in Coventry”.

Obviously this is great news on a number of levels.

Firstly, the proposed development would keep LTC in and around Coventry as a major employer. It would give the firm modern, expanded facilities which the firm needs if it is to expand production.

Secondly, investment proposed (some £200m) is more than that previously suggested, and will generate a hundreds of manufacturing jobs, taking total employment at the firm locally s high as 1000 .

Thirdly, the proposed plans would suggest – for LTC at least - a significant increase in output from a few thousand to some 12,000 units a year.

Fourthly, the proposed development would include ‘state of the art’ facilities for the research, development and assembly of hi-tech electric vehicles, including the next generation London taxi. The new facility would be LTC’s new HQ.

The Council welcomes the proposed development, noting in the papers for the Committee that the proposed development would complement existing developments at Ansty Park.

That investment is key as a new model is urgently needed. The firm had anyway been losing market share to the Mercedes-Benz Vito even before its most recent round of problems.

A key problem facing the firm’s previous owner, Manganese, had been its small scale production of a dated model. The cab remains relatively pricey to operate, and it’s clear why some cabbies have in recent years gone over to Peugeot and Mercedes Benz.

After all, the big auto manufacturers can take one of their mass produced vans and convert it to a taxi, thereby keeping costs down. On that, things are getting even tougher, with Nissan driving into town in the form of its new NV200 cab, again based on a van platform.

As I’ve noted before, Geely ownership offers the potential for new investment, new models, and maybe new export markets. Hopefully these will now be pursued at a new home at Ansty.

Such a move would be great news for the famous Black Cab, and good for jobs in Coventry. And the classic London taxi remains something Coventry remains famous for all over the world, which can’t be bad for marketing the city.

* Professor David Bailey works at the Aston Business School