We got the chance to check out the concept behind the Standard Taxi at the New York Auto Show in 2007, and it now sounds like the unique people-mover will get a shot at production. Now known as Vehicle Production Group LLC, the company behind the Standard Taxi design has gotten the funding it needed for production. AM General, the company which became famous worldwide for creating the military-spec HMMV (better known as the Hummer), will do the duties of assembling the blocky cab at its Mishawaka, Indiana plant where the Hummer H2 is built for General Motors.

The Standard Taxi uses a rather traditional design with the engine placed up front, driving the rear wheels. Powertrain development work is being jointly carried out with GM. A compressed natural gas version is also in the works with assistance from Clean Energy Fuels Corp., founded by T. Boone Pickens, who also has some investment in VPG. The cab is capable of carrying four passengers and all their belongings and is wheelchair ready.

[Source: Vehicle Production Group]

Press Release:

The Vehicle Production Group LLC ('VPG') Completes $160 Million Equity Financing Led by Perseus L.L.C.

VPG TO PRODUCE GASOLINE AND COMPRESSED NATURAL GAS ('CNG') POWERED WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE TAXI, PARATRANSIT, AND CONSUMER VEHICLES

TROY, Mich., Aug. 11 -- The Vehicle Production Group LLC ("VPG") a designer, developer, and marketer of specialty vehicles designed to meet the needs of the taxi fleet market, commercial and municipal paratransit markets, and the consumer retail market in North America for individuals with a mobility disability, has completed an equity financing of $160 million. The financing was led by Perseus L.L.C. ("Perseus"), a merchant bank and private equity fund management company.

VPG was founded by Patton Corrigan and Marc Klein in 2006, with additional funding provided by Three Seasons Capital, a venture firm led by Fred Drasner. This early investment allowed VPG to assemble its management team, design and engineer the vehicle, develop a prototype, and line up manufacturing and assembly suppliers. Proceeds from the financing will be used for continued vehicle engineering, production tooling, vehicle testing and validation. Vehicle production launch is projected for the first quarter of 2010.

Fred Drasner, Chairman of VPG and Three Seasons Capital stated, "In the most difficult capital market conditions in recent history, we are pleased that Perseus and our co-investors have recognized the excellent work done by our talented team, led by Mark Hogan, our CEO, the strong demand for our vehicles, and the strength of our strategic partnerships. Their commitments will provide the resources needed by VPG to move into production."

VPG is working with General Motors through its on-highway integrator Powertrain Integration LLC. Marketing, technical, and infra-structure logistical support for the CNG model will be provided by Clean Energy Fuels Corp., founded by T. Boone Pickens, both of whom are also investors in VPG. The vehicle will be assembled by AM General LLC, in Mishawaka, Indiana, and will employ a classic front-engine, rear-wheel drive architecture which includes a durable body-on-frame structure. Vehicle access is compliant with the vehicle requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The vehicle includes an integrated automatic ramp that will provide quick and easy access for individuals who use wheelchairs, motorized scooters and other mobility devices. Originally introduced as the "Standard Taxi", VPG's vehicle has undergone design and functional enhancements based on input from the marketplace.

VPG also has marketing relationships with MV Transportation ("MV"), the largest private provider of paratransit services and the largest privately-held transportation contracting firm in the United States, and The Motion Group of Companies ("MGC") in Canada, under which MV and MGC will sell vehicles into municipal and commercial paratransit fleets. It is anticipated that the consumer model of the vehicle will be marketed through existing automotive dealers who will also provide vehicle preparation, delivery and service.

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