Fifty Mercedes-Benz cabs will be added to the city's streets by the upcoming Lunar New Year, according to Shanghai's largest transportation operator.
Dazhong Transportation (Group) Co Ltd said there are no plans to raise fees for the luxury taxis. Currently, Shanghai cabs charge 10 yuan (US$1.2) for the first three kilometers and two yuan for each additional kilometer.
Local media have reported that the new cabs may charge passengers a premium, but industry officials denied that, citing that fare hikes require government approval.
To provide high quality service, Dazhong will choose the most experienced drivers, the company said.
They will do that by selecting drivers whose skills have been awarded a rating of at least Three Stars, which indicates outstanding service, according to Ling Dongshu, an official at Dazhong's taxi division.
Shanghai has a total of 10,270 drivers who have received the distinction, out of a total 106,537 drivers.
Some cabbies fear that higher maintenance fees for Benz cars will mean a reduction in salary. Not everyone, however, is worried.
"Benz cabs will surely be the most popular among our fleet. People will choose the better car when two cabs come, according to my experience," said a 30-something Dazhong driver surnamed Jiang.
He added that 30 Passat cabs, an upscale brand made by Volkswagen, are booked by companies for out-of-city service, which is more profitable than
making numerous local stops. Mercedes cabs, he said, will serve a similar function and therefore be lucrative.
The most popular cab brand in Shanghai is Santana, which is also made by Volkswagen.
As taxi operators have been gradually upgrading their fleets in recent years, high-end cars, including Passat and Buick, have become more popular.
(Shanghai Daily December 24, 2003)