1,000 Black London-Style Taxis for Azerbaijan image

Azerbaijan, which hosts the next Eurovision Song Contest, ordered 1,000 black London-style taxis for its capital city, Baku.

The city already has a fleet of 20,000 Soviet-era models, most of them Russian Lada sedans. British automaker Manganese Bronze Holdings, which aims at a surge in interest from energy-exporting economies, will paint the taxis violet at the behest of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Last year the company sold 1,502 units in the UK and 705 overseas, this year planning to sell more taxis abroad than in Britain.

“All the surveys indicate that London has far and away the best taxi service in the world in the view of business and tourist travelers,” says Chief Executive Officer John Russell. “That has a big emotional attraction for people who are trying to develop their cities.”

Normally a cab in Britain would cost from $48,000 to $55,000, but the Azerbaijanis are buying them for about $27,000 each, because the order is so big and their cabs have slightly lower specifications. Azerbaijan plans to have 3,000 London-style cabs on its streets until 2013.

The taxis are known as Hackney cabs since at the beginning they were carriages drawn by French Haquenée horses. They feature 25-foot turning circles, as required by London’s Public Carriage Office in the early 20th century, which enable them to easily exit from taxi-waiting queues in the middle of the street.