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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

London's Black Cab Debuts in China

SHANGHAI -- It's not exactly the newest car model on display at Shanghai's gigantic auto show. But the made-in-China "London taxi" definitely reflects the latest realities of an increasingly global auto industry.

As Chinese youths in red uniforms and Buckingham Palace-style black bearskin caps stood "guard," Chinese automaker Geely Group unveiled a sparkling gold version of London's famed black cabs that it plans to build in a joint venture with Britain's Manganese Bronze Holdings.

The alliance of odd bedfellows is a godsend for Manganese Bronze as it seeks to expand outside Britain, and it may well bring Geely the technology and quality upgrade it needs to compete both at home and overseas.

"We've been looking for partners in China for many years," John Russell, CEO for Manganese Bronze, said on the sidelines of the weeklong auto show, which opened Sunday.

"A lot of the markets we could sell into internationally would like the product, but they are too expensive," Russell said.

With Geely, the company will be making 20,000 London cabs per year in China while continuing its current output of 3,000 per year in Britain.

"So we have the opportunity to grow the business way beyond its current size," Russell said.

Plans call for the venture to make a limousine based on the black cab, which began production in 1948. The joint venture also aims to make two passenger cars, although details of those models have not yet been announced.

It remains to be seen whether China's taxi fleets, whose bare-bones sedans often have doors that do not close properly and drivers stunningly unfamiliar with their city streets, will opt for the cost and luxury of the London cabs.

The cars will cost about 250,000 yuan ($32,000), Geely said, about one-third of what they cost in Britain.