New emission rules meant most got scrapped and the remaining few are on the way out
End of road for last Toyota Crown taxis A crane flattening the Crown taxi at the Kheng Kheng scrapyard. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Toyota Crown taxis were once the kings of the road here and ruled the streets in terms of numbers.

In 2006, there were about 19,000 Crowns - or 80 per cent of all taxis - on the roads at the time.

However, in 2014, the model was retired after 32 years as it did not meet the Euro IV diesel emission standards at the time.

This meant that most of the 349 Crown taxis at the time were scrapped, but some survived and were put to uses other than picking up passengers.

ComfortDelGro group corporate communications officer Tammy Tan said: "We started decommissioning our Crown taxis as early as 1999, and donated them to hospitals, voluntary welfare organisations and schools for rehabilitation and education purposes."

Decommissioning taxis is done at the ComfortDelGro workshop in Sin Ming Drive, and involves the draining of fluids such as engine oil, and removal of components such as the engine and battery. The cab is also stripped of advertising, and the licence plate is replaced with a brown one to indicate it is no longer in service.

One place that has benefited from the decommissioned taxis is the National University Hospital's (NUH) Rehabilitation Centre, where they are used as part of the hospital's caregiver training, said occupational therapist Feng Rui.

The vehicles help occupational therapists conduct training for caregivers, who need to assist patients with various medical conditions to get in and out of cars safely.

Said Ms Feng: "Having an actual vehicle will allow both patients and carers to have hands-on practice of how a car transfer would be like."

These repurposed Crowns are now themselves being replaced with Hyundai Sonatas.

The Sonata, which was introduced to the ComfortDelGro stable in 2007, makes up about a fifth of the transport provider's current fleet of more than 12,000 taxis.

NUH has replaced its decommissioned Crown taxi - used between 2010 and 2015 - with a Sonata.

Meanwhile, the last decommissioned Crown, which was donated to The Salvation Army's Peacehaven Nursing Home in 2013 for rehabilitative purposes, was sent to the scrapyard last month and replaced with a Sonata.

Ms Tan said there are still two more decommissioned Crowns being used elsewhere. "These will be replaced by Sonatas when there is a request to do so," she said. There are no plans to maintain any of the existing Crowns.

Some still have fond memories of the Crown. Mr Tay Back Piou, 73, a cabby for 40 years, has driven taxis like the Nissan Cedric and now, the Hyundai Ioniq. But the Toyota Crown holds a special place for him.

He drove three different Crowns between 1996 and 2014, and remembers them for their comfort and durability. Passengers also appreciated the spacious interior. He said: "Inside, it was bigger than other cars."