The Buick Lacrosse Hybrid Taxi, a short lived Expo dream

This is a 2010 Buick Lacrosse Hybrid. Back in 2010 Shanghai hosted the World Expo and in an effort to improve its taxi fleet a lot of money was spent by the taxi companies to buy new cars. They initially bought 3,650 Volkswagen Tourans and 350 Buick Lacrosse Hybrids to be put into service. I remember clearly reading articles about all sorts of New Energy Vehicles being brought into service before expo, including Super Capacitor buses! The Lacrosse Hybrids were part of this push for a “green” expo. Actually they should have said blue because they shut down a lot of factories in and around Shanghai during the Expo and we had endless amounts of lovely blue sky. Those were the days…

The tourans managed to stick around until late last year when the last of them reached 6 years old – the mandatory retirement age for taxis in Shanghai. These have since been replaced by new Tourans and the old Santana 3000’s and Vistas will soon be gone from Shanghai streets as the newest examples turn 6 years old next year. Hard to believe the Santana has been dead for 5 years already! (Not considering the new Polo based car of course) The Buicks did not last so long, however.

You see the biggest problem with running a higher end car as a taxi and charging basically the same fare as the other, cheaper to run taxis is that profit margins shrink. This is exactly what happened to the Lacrosses. Expo finished on October 31st 2010 and the Buick were taken out of service before the end of November the same year!

The Tourans and Lacrosses were not ordinary taxis either, they were mainly for taking people to and from the Expo. I remember clearly when my Grandparents came to visit in 2010 and we had to phone a taxi company and arrange for a taxi to take them to the Expo! It was all very professional. Back then I was quite obsessed with these new taxis and would get very excited when I saw one. I remember riding in a Touran for the first time, I was ecstatic! The Buicks’ short run in Shanghai meant I only ever got to ride in one and once they were gone I thought I would never see one again… Wrong! The Tourans were in pretty terrible condition when they were finally taken out of service, they were clearly not built to take the abuse of being a taxi in Shanghai quite like the old Santana could!

Once the Buicks were taken out of service it seems some were sold and some were sent to Buick/Chevrolet dealers around the country. I have seen two in Shanghai that looked to be in private hands and this one, parked outside a Buick dealership in Zhanjiang, a city close to Hainan Island in Guangdong Province. Zhanjiang is the home of Sanxing too, a company that ckd’d all sorts of cars until the early 2000’s. Back to the Buick!

This style of Lacrosse was a China only model introduced in 2006. The hybrid entered the market in 2008. The hybrid used GM’s “Belt Alternator Starter” system to provide mild hybrid propulsion to the Lacrosse and many other cars at the time. Its relative simplicity compared to other hybrid systems kept costs lower and allowed it to be introduced in everything from the Chevrolet Malibu to the Cadillac Escalade. A link to a wikipedia article is included at the bottom for anyone who’d like to know more about the system. The Lacrosse hybrid was also available for private buyers however it proved highly unpopular with consumers as the small fuel saving over the regular Lacrosse was not really justified by the additional cost. Indeed I have seen just one Lacrosse hybrid in private hands (not counting ex-taxis). The sticker below the Lacrosse badge was an advertisement for the Chevrolet dealership next to the Buick one this car was parked outside of.

The interior of the hybrid was no different to the regular petrol powered one. It is a decent looking interior and seems to have held up well over the last seven years. Sadly there is no evidence that it was ever a taxi as any additional parts to hold meters etc have long since been removed.

The Chevrolet dealership also had one parked out front.

Shanghai is no stranger to having some unusual taxis though, a few years before Expo in 2004/2005 they introduced a small fleet of Mercedes E Class sedans with extra cool base spec wheels!

Unfortunately it’s hard to find high quality versions of these pictures since they are taken from various websites and only low resolution versions exist online. The Mercs were released initially in a batch of 50 with plans for several hundred to hit the roads later. Sadly it seems these planes never came to fruition and these were long gone by the time Expo came around. Interestingly I’ve never seen one in private hands since, unlike the Buick of which I have seen two ex-taxis plying Shanghai’s roads. Currently Shanghai has a taxi fleet made up mainly of new Tourans, Lavidas and soon to be dead Santanas. Nissan NV200’s make up an ever-growing number and a small fleet of London Taxis also roam the streets. Besides these there are also numerous other cars making up a tiny portion of the fleet, but that list would be too long to list in this one article!

The same car driving earlier that same day. Once I stumbled across the car later that day I went into the Buick dealership and asked if my suspicions on it being an old taxi were correct. Sure enough, the nice lady said yes, she couldn’t remember exactly when the car arrived in Zhanjiang but said a fair few were sent to different dealerships across the country for use there.