NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor rolled out its first new taxi model in 22 years Monday, a hybrid offering built to better accommodate the growing numbers of seniors and foreigners hailing rides.
The JPN Taxi incorporates requests from leading cab operators in Tokyo. It runs on liquefied petroleum gas, offering double the fuel economy, and boasts such technologies as automatic braking. A spacious interior eases access by seniors, disabled passengers and relatively larger-bodied foreign tourists.
The sales target of 1,000 units a month is far below a regular passenger car's. But the taxi market holds a special place in Toyota's heart. Cabbies were the main users of its first passenger car, which it began mass-producing roughly eight decades ago. And the performance demands of taxis helped Toyota develop technologies that found their way into its other vehicles.
Its last new taxi model -- the Comfort, released in 1995 -- is a familiar sight on the streets of Tokyo.
With the JPN Taxi, Toyota is now set to again alter the capital's cityscape, President Akio Toyoda said. One-third of Tokyo taxis will be replaced with the new model by the time of the 2020 Olympics, according to the chairman of the Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations.