End of the road for Toyota Crown cabs after 32 years

1988: Taxi driver Phua Chiang Chay with the iconic cab not long after it was introduced to roads here. 2014: SMRT cabby Chua Kiang Wee (left), 58, and TransCab cabby John Wong, 68, with their Crowns, which will be phased out.
1988: Taxi driver Phua Chiang Chay with the iconic cab not long after it was introduced to roads here. 2014: SMRT cabby Chua Kiang Wee (left), 58, and TransCab cabby John Wong, 68, with their Crowns, which will be phased out.TNP FILE PHOTO ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
1988: Taxi driver Phua Chiang Chay with the iconic cab not long after it was introduced to roads here. 2014: SMRT cabby Chua Kiang Wee (left), 58, and TransCab cabby John Wong, 68, with their Crowns, which will be phased out.
1988: Taxi driver Phua Chiang Chay with the iconic cab not long after it was introduced to roads here. 2014: SMRT cabby Chua Kiang Wee (left), 58, and TransCab cabby John Wong, 68, with their Crowns, which will be phased out.TNP FILE PHOTO ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

After 32 years, last taxi will be scrapped by end of this month

Once the king of the roads here, Toyota Crown taxis will be gone forever by the end of the month.

Only 349 of the vehicles remain today, a far cry from the model's heyday in 2006, when 19,000 such taxis - or eight in 10 of all cabs - plied the roads.

The taxis, known for being roomy and reliable, have been phased out because they cannot meet the stricter Euro IV emission diesel standards, which apply to vehicles registered after September 2006.

Taxis are allowed to be used for only eight years, so the last batch of Crowns registered before the stricter emission rules kicked in will have to be scrapped by the end of this month.

The iconic cab with its distinctive boxy design is among the first Japanese models to break into Singapore's taxi market. It first made an appearance here in 1982. Toyota distributor Borneo Motors said more than 32,600 Crown taxis have been sold since.

Retired car industry veteran Lee Chiu San noted that before the Crown, the taxi model of choice in the 1960s and 1970s was the British-built Morris Oxford.

"(The Crown is) the workhorse model for the taxi market... Taxi drivers like its spaciousness and durability," he said.

Cabbies still driving the Crown will be sad to see it go.

Said SMRT cabby Chua Kiang Wee, 58, who has driven two Crowns since 2000: "Some wear and tear is normal, but the Crowns have never broken down on me."

Premier cabby Tan Ah Kee, 65, who has been driving the model for most of his 20-year career, said: "The boot was big enough for four medium-sized pieces of luggage."

Trans-Cab driver John Wong's Crown has travelled more than 1.45 million km in eight years. "It must have gone all over Singapore many, many times," said the 68-year-old.

The highest mileage clocked by a Crown is an SMRT cab which has travelled more than two million km - the equivalent of going round the earth more than 50 times, or going to the moon and back, twice.

The Crown's exit also means the end of the cheapest flag down fare here of $3, a rate companies could charge because the vehicles cost less to purchase.

The next cheapest flag down fare is $3.20 for Comfort and CityCab's Sonatas and Prime's Toyota Axio and Honda models.

The Crown's demise also means the end of the era when a single model dominated the taxi market. There are now at least 20 different taxi models plying the roads .

Lab technician Chris Lee, 32, said he will miss it.

"Crowns were so common previously... My parents and I would hop into a Crown to visit relatives during occasions such as Chinese New Year, and whenever we needed to go to the airport to catch a plane."

He hopes to see some of the vehicles put on display, even if they are no longer on the road, and Borneo Motors has already applied to do so.

The company's commercial director, Ms Adelene Tan, said: "We are writing in to the Land Transport Authority for approval to keep a unit of the Crown taxi for sentimental value."

tohyc@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Melody Zaccheus