The Oxford University Press said last year it would consider including tuhao – “nouveau riche with garish tastes” – in its English dictionary if the Chinese buzzword continues to catch on.
Perhaps that is now more likely, as a very English institution has just got a tuhao makeover. A 50-vehicle fleet of London black cabs arrived on Shanghai’s streets this month. But the TX4 taxis were not black, as typically produced, but painted instead in what is being termed as tuhao gold.
China’s newly minted millionaires have been buying luxury goods from BMWs to iPhones painted in gold sheen. Even the People’s Daily caught the bug by dressing the exterior of its Beijing headquarters in the colour (see WiC217). But for many onlookers, giving the hackney carriage a golden exterior seems too radical a departure from its English roots. “This is what Shanghai has done to the London black cab… the cabs will arrive in Shanghai, a city of gaudy skylines, champagne wars, and… well, this. Sombre just won’t do,” the Wall Street Journal complained.
But Qiangsheng Taxi, Shanghai’s leading cab operator, said the golden hue suits the image of China’s financial hub. “The gold colour is more attractive and can easily differentiate the cars from other taxis,” it also told Shanghai Daily.
Qiangsheng has ordered 200 of the cars from a unit of Geely, one of China’s leading automakers. The carmaker, which also owns Volvo, acquired Manganese Bronze for £11.04 million ($17.5 million) after the Coventry-based manufacturer of the TX4 went under in 2013. Geely’s rescue act was much welcomed at the time, with London’s mayor, Boris Johnson praising the deal for ensuring “the continuing manufacture of a world famous, fully accessible and instantly recognisable vehicle synonymous with London”.
Aside from the change in colour, Shanghai’s TX4 variant has maintained the same design – while Qiangsheng has said they will be driven only by its best staff. The spacious layout is another plus, it says, with the new model designed to cater to passengers with physical disabilities or elderly people.
However, with a flagfall of Rmb19 ($2.6) for the first three kilometres – that is to say Rmb5 more than the normal rate – the TX4 is an expensive option, and Qianhsheng’s critics doubt that it is simply looking to help passengers with limited mobility.
“If the tuhao London cabs are really disabled-friendly, why are they charging more than other taxi fleets?” one internet user asked. “This is really designed for crass rich people,” another added.
Perhaps taking account of some of the feedback, the Shanghai government is now negotiating for disabled passengers to get a discounted fare when using the cabs.
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