In Victoria's taxi business, the colour of your cab matters

Victoria Taxi is shedding its yellow skin for an eye-catching green to set itself apart from rivals and attract a younger client base.

It’s the first major makeover for Greater Victoria’s No. 3 cab company in more than 40 years and includes a new logo and slogans asking riders to “Go Green.”

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“There’s a good opportunity to capture some business, including a younger element,” said Victoria Taxi general manager Sean Convey. “We hope younger people will see this and they say ‘That’s neat, I’ll try them.”

The company used local landmark Craigdarroch Castle to unveil the first of its freshly painted fleet.

As media cameras rolled in the parking lot, a group of schoolchildren taking a tour of the castle filed by, all of them turning heads at a brightly painted Toyota Prius and some saying “cool colour.”

The paint changeover — it’s officially “Lamborghini green with pearlescent additives” that gives the car bodies a fluorescent shine, even at night — will distance Victoria Taxi from the leading cab company, Yellow Cab of Victoria.

Yellow has about 100 cabs on the streets, followed by Blue Bird’s 98 and Victoria Taxi’s 58. There are close to 400 cabs operating in the region, including vehicles operated by about 25 independent owners, said Convey.

Victoria Taxi will switch from yellow bodies and dark-green roofs over the next few months. Convey said four or five cars will be completed each week at various autobody shops around the city.

The company owns six of the 58 plates in the fleet while the remainder are owned by 28 shareholders, the largest being David Galbraith, who has 14 cars.

The remodels will cost operators about $1,000 each, depending on the bodywork that needs to be done. Included in the deal, said Convey, will be upgrades to onboard computer dispatch systems.

The cab industry is a competitive one in the region, Convey said, so any edge — even cosmetic — is needed to attract customers.

Yellow Cab has the biggest slice of market share. It has contracts to service the ferry terminal, airport and various stands, including the front of the Fairmont Empress hotel. It also has dedicated phones in some of Victoria’s biggest hotels. Yellow also built its fleet in recent years by acquiring the smaller Peninsula and Esquimalt taxi companies.

Blue Bird, established the longest, has contracts with large businesses, including the provincial government, said Convey.

Convey said Victoria Taxi will continue to build its business on long-term customers and younger consumers, especially to and from the downtown core on weekend evenings.

Ted Hill, who has been driving cab in the city for 37 years and is the first to have his Toyota Prius V-model painted in the new colours, said he earns a consistent business “the old-fashioned way.”

“It’s about customer service,” said Hill. “I have a lot of elderly clients who have to go to the doctor and get groceries. I open doors, talk with them. I also have quite a few businesspeople. Some have to be at the ferry or airport by 5 a.m. and they call the night before and I’m always on time. People appreciate that, but they also appreciate the small things.”

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