Union considers legal action against Manganese Bronze over steering glitch that triggered recall
The maker of London’s black cabs knew about vehicle steering problems that led to the company’s collapse for more than a month before it ordered a recall of 400 taxis, according to drivers and unions.
The manufacturer, Manganese Bronze, which is due to call in administrators this week, could face an investigation by the Financial Services Authority, or the Insolvency Service, if it is proved directors knew about the problems before informing the stock market in a timely manner.
The RMT union, which represents black-cab drivers in London, said it was consulting lawyers about possible legal action to recoup any financial losses from the firm’s collapse.
The union has called on the London mayor, Boris Johnson, to suspend his scheme to ban any taxi which is more than 15 years old, due to the recall that is leaving fewer cabs on the road.
It has been revealed that the two incidents that finally led to the company recalling the cabs took place in London and Edinburgh on 30 September and 4 October, but that the firm continued selling the £35,000 vehicles. One sale to a driver occurred only hours before the recall.
The collapse has left 1,500 cab drivers across the UK without a warranty on their vehicles, while the 300 owners of the faulty TX4 models are unable to use them.
Martin Adkins, a taxi driver from Carshalton, south London, said he drove his brand new TX4 off the London Taxi Company’s showroom forecourt on the afternoon of 11 October. At 7.30am the following morning, shares in Manganese Bronze were suspended and later that day 400 cabs were recalled.
He said: “I bought the taxi in good faith and did a shift that same night. Then, a day later, I was told the cab had been recalled. I was absolutely gobsmacked. I couldn’t believe it. They must have known that there was a problem when they sold it to me.”
Jason King, a driver from Hertfordshire, who has been driving black cabs for 10 years, said he first informed Manganese Bronze, which trades as the London Taxi Company, on 4 September of steering problems after he bought a cab.
King said: “Immediately, I could tell there was a problem with the steering and called up the company.
“They told me to bring it in a few days later and the tracking was tightened, which made a slight difference. However, it was still pulling the vehicle towards the kerb.
“I phoned on three occasions and was told ‘it is a characteristic of the cab’. Even when I bought the cab I had heard about problems with the steering, but had been assured these had been fixed.”
Between the time King contacted the company and the recall on 12 October, the firm had sold a further 99 cabs.
Manganese Bronze knew about steering issues in 2011 and decided to replace steering boxes with parts from a new supplier in February this year, although directors did not think it necessary to inform the stock market at their annual results launch in March. However, the new parts also failed and the steering reliability was an ongoing issue for several drivers.
On Tuesday, Manganese Bronze declined to comment.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said the company had known about steering issues for several months.
He said: “Drivers I have spoken to have been experiencing steering problems for some time, long before this recall. The company has tried to fix the problems in the past but obviously this time they can’t. It has left 1,500 drivers without a warranty, 300 without a cab, and there’s not a single taxi in London available to rent.”
He has written to Johnson asking for the rules on ageing cabs being refused licences to be relaxed until the recall is resolved.
Mike Tinnion, of the RMT, said eight union members had submitted details which were being looked at by the union’s lawyers for possible legal action.
He said: “A number of our members have said to us they experienced driving problems with the cabs … It is difficult to believe the firm didn’t know about the steering problems before the recall.”
The company announced plans to call in administrators on Monday after an emergency cash injection from its Chinese partner, Geely, failed to materialise.
About 300 jobs at its Coventry plant, which has made the Hackney carriage for more than 100 years, are under threat.
The first some drivers heard about the recall was when 18 TX4 vehicles were stopped by Transport for London from taking part in an annual trip to Disneyland Paris for sick children.
A spokesman for the Johnson said: “The mayor’s team at Transport for London are in contact with Manganeze Bronze in order to establish the full implications of the company’s decision to go into administration for cab drivers in London.
“To help drivers affected by the recent recall of vehicles we have temporarily suspended the requirement to source taxis from inside London, although all taxis operating in the capital will continue to have to meet the 15-year age limit. We hope this decision will help affected drivers to obtain replacement vehicles as easily as possible and minimise any potential losses on their part.”
Most accidents on Britain’s roads last year were the driver’s fault, according to the latest government figures.
Visit link: Most accidents ‘driver’s fault’