April was a “transition month” toward “recovery mode” for Nissan in the U.S. market, says Nissan Americas Chairman Carlos Tavares.

The auto maker’s operations have been crimped by the March 11 earthquake that struck Japan and triggered a killer tsunami and paralyzing power outages.

Deliveries of Nissan and Infiniti cars and light trucks totaled 71,526 last month, 8.0% higher than like-2010 but nearly 60% below prior-month, according to Ward’s data. The auto maker eclipsed Chrysler in March to finish fifth on the U.S. sales chart but fell to sixth spot last month, narrowly edging out Hyundai.

However, the auto maker’s operations rapidly are returning to normal as reconstruction efforts accelerate in Japan. Accordingly, expect Nissan to be “more aggressive in the months to come,” Tavares says today during a teleconference with journalists.

The event is held to herald Nissan’s selection as the exclusive provider of taxis to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Effective 2013, the 10-year $1 billion deal will see the auto maker flood the Big Apple with some 25,000 specially equipped NV200 commercial vans.

The NV200 was chosen over the Turkey-built Ford Transit Connect and an entry from Turkey-based Karsan.

“We started this process to leverage our taxi industry’s purchasing power to get the highest quality taxi, one that that can expand and redefine the legendary image of New York City taxicabs,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says in a statement.

“The new taxis will be custom-designed to meet the specific demands of carrying 600,000 passengers a day in New York City traffic and the vehicle meets the top priorities identified by the public in our online survey.”

Input is being sought from New York taxi drivers and residents to determine interior amenities, such as gauge design and meter placement, Nissan says. The NV200 already is in service as taxi in major cities such as Tokyo, but additional durability testing will be conducted to meet the rigors required of the New York duty cycle.

The 4-passenger vans will be powered by a 2.0L 4-cyl. gasoline engine rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at 29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km) on the highway. City-cycle testing has not been performed.

However, there are strong indications an alternative powertrain could be in the vehicle’s future. Six test units of the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle also are part of the deal which, Tavares reminds, spans 10 years. “We are not going to stay static,” he says.

Other NV200 taxi features include a flat floor, stain-resistant seats and a grape phenol-coated air filter to improve cabin air quality. To reduce noise pollution, the vehicle also boasts a “low-annoyance” horn that uses flashing lights as a supplemental warning signal.

The compact trucks will be assembled at Nissan’s plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and modified by a U.S. upfitter. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $29,000.

emayne@wardsauto.com