Monday, May 16, 2011

The evolution of Chiclayo’s taxis

For younger Chiclayanos and those of us with fairly recent exposure to Chiclayo it’s hard to imagine that the words ‘taxi’ and Tico were not always synonymous. The little yellow three-cylinder 796 cc Daewoo Ticos with five-speed manual transmission are everywhere, and I have no doubt that during peak traffic hours it would be possible to cross a main street by stepping on the roofs of Ticos. Surrounding the principal park there is never a time when from 30 to 50 Ticos are not in view. But that was not always the case.

Prior to Tico importation in 1991 when the car was first manufactured, it was 20 and 30 year old Fords, Dodges, and Chevys that were the primary people movers. Also serving as taxis in those days were various models of Datsun, Hillman, Lada, Peugeot, Volvo and even Volkswagen Beetles. Today many of those old cars are still in service, traveling fixed routes and schedules as ‘collectivos’. As I understand it, Tico import into Peru stopped about the time when production was halted in 2001 to make way for the Daewoo Matiz. During my first visit to Peru in 2005 the Matiz was just starting to make its appearance on the streets.

Over the past few years competition for the Tico and its successor the Matiz has increased, primarily from the Suzuki Alto but also from what seems like a very recent overnight invasion of GM’s Chevy Spark, which in reality is a Matiz with a few cosmetics and the Chevy logo. They’re sleeker looking; come in different colors and add somewhat to passenger comfort with the Matiz and Spark being 6 inches longer and 3.5 inches wider and higher than the Tico. The Alto is the smallest of the three (Matiz left, Spark center, Alto right).

I seldom see a Tico when I visit Lima, and several people have told me that Ticos have been banned from city streets, at least in some Lima suburbs. I don’t know if that’s true, but there is no doubt that Ticos will be seen on Chiclayo’s streets continuing to transport people as well as stoves, refrigerators, furniture and almost everything else imaginable for a long, long time.


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