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London's famous Black Cabs were rescued from the threat of bankruptcy Friday by one of China's richest billionaires.
Geely Automobile Holdings, a unit of carmaker Zhegiang Geely, has agreed to pay around £11m ($17.4/€12.7) to buy Manganese Bronze, the British firm licensed to make London's iconic Black Cabs. The deal could save at least 100 jobs at the firm's Coventry facility where it has built more than 100,000 of the distinct taxis since opening in 1948.
"We are determined to restore the fortunes of this totemic marque," said Li Shufu, Zhegiang Geely's chairman and one of the richest men in China, according to Forbes magazine. "We are a long-term and committed investor and we believe the illustrious past of the London black cab can be matched by a successful and healthy future."
Manganese, which operates under the trade name "London Taxi Company", entered administration in October of last year after issues with the steering components in some of the taxis led to a production halt and "the recall of (around) 400 vehicles and a suspension of sales which had an immediate detrimental impact on the Group's cash flows", according to a company statement.
Taxis have been a part of London's transport infrastructure for at least five centuries, according to the London Cabs website. The British government began formally licensing vehicles in 1679, creating the Public Carriage Office to assess what were called at the time "conditions of fitness" to ensure passenger safety.
First known as "Hackney Cabs", or horse-drawn carriages, the most well-recognized version of the modern taxi is the Austin FX3, first manufactured in Coventry in 1948 with the distinctive "reverse swinging" doors. It's successor, the Fx4, is thought to be the second-longest surviving British-made car after the world famous Land Rover.