LONDON, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Chinese automaker Geely has invested 300 million pounds (373.59 million U.S. dollars) in a new factory to build electric versions of the famous black London taxi cabs.
The new R&D and manufacturing facility, ran by the Geely subsidiary the London Taxi Company (LTC), held an official opening on Wednesday in the English Midlands city of Coventry.
The company also announced that the second vehicle to come off the line will be a dedicated, range extended electric light commercial van (LCV).
This all new, highly flexible, commercially competitive electric vehicle will help fleet owners lower their running costs, improve air quality and support cities in tackling the pollution crisis in urban areas.
The factory opening comes ahead of legislation due to take effect from January next year which means all new London black cabs must be electric.
British Business Secretary Greg Clark said: "Our iconic black cabs are famous across the world. The London Taxi Company's impressive new factory and R&D facility showcases the innovation that makes the UK a world leader in the development of new automotive technologies."
LTC chief executive Chris Gubbey said the opening of the new plant, which would help create and safeguard 1,000 jobs, marked the "rebirth of the LTC".
Carl-Peter Forster, chairman of LTC, said the new plant was the first new automotive manufacturing facility in Britain for over a decade and also "the first dedicated electric vehicle factory in the UK; and the first major Chinese investment in UK automotive".
The largest British trade union Unite was delighted with the resurgence of the taxi brand, which protects high-skilled jobs and will create more in the future.
Unite regional officer Peter Coulson said the company was on its knees in 2013 but "thanks to the commitment of Geely's top management and accompanying large-scale investment the iconic London taxi is set for its continued renaissance".
"Unite has worked very closely and successfully with the company to contribute to this success story which is one of the great comebacks in Britain's long industrial history," said Coulson.
"Geely sees great potential for the iconic London taxi which is famous across the world with its cameo appearances at the 2012 London Olympics and in the James Bond film franchise. The company is already exporting to the Middle East and is eyeing up the Australian market."
The current fleet of black London taxis is 23,000 strong.