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New Police Cars on the Horizon

Ford’s panther platform police cars are soon to be extinct.

by on May.25, 2010

Without a civilian market afterlife value, the value of a reborn Caprice is substantially less.

Unfamiliar-appearing taxicabs won’t be the only new look on American streets in a couple of years. Police sedans too will be all different as Ford’s venerable Crown Victoria Police Interceptors (CVPIs) are retired.

The giant change is triggered by Ford’s decision to close its St. Thomas, Ontario, assembly plant in September 2011, ending the production of its “Panther” family of large rear-drive sedans – sold as the Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car- after a remarkable run of 33 years.

At a recent meeting of the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) in Detroit, Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge revealed details of future police cars.

The biggest news was the revelation that Chevrolet plans to import an all-new Caprice rear-drive V8 model from Australia, supposedly just  for police use. In case you were wondering, the 2012 Caprice PPV is not a Chevy-badged version of the well-received, but poor selling,  Pontiac G8 that was discontinued when General Motors shut down Pontiac last year.

This new Caprice has a different, longer body than the G8, mounted on a 118.5-inch wheelbase, versus the G8’s 114.8. Overall length will be 204.2 inches, eight inches longer than the G8, while width is the same and overall height, an inch more. Moreover, the engine is a 6-liter V8 with a claimed 355 horsepower.

The Chevy rep at the NAHA meeting maintained that GM has no plans to offer a civilian version of this car in the U. S., although it is clearly based on a civilian Holden model from Down Under.

Frankly, I am dubious about the denial. It is hard to believe GM would spend the money modifying this car to U.S. safety and emission standards based on purely speculative gains in the low-profit police market.

Furthermore, much of Ford’s success has been based on the fact, as pointed out in a previous column about taxicabs (See Will Your Taxi Of The Future Be Yellow or Green?), that the Crown Vic has staying power as a used car. Without a civilian market afterlife value, the value of a reborn Caprice would be substantially less.

Dodge revealed little of its plans for future police sedans, but it already has its 340-horsepower V8 rear-wheel-drive Charger cruiser on the market.

The lure to both Chevy and Dodge, of course, is that cops are accustomed to V8 rear-wheel drive police cruisers, and Ford is defying common sense by walking away from its 70% hold on that market, estimated at 60,000-70,000 vehicles annually. Chevy has been offering the front-drive Impala V6 police car for several years without notable success, although its fuel economy advantage appeals to many jurisdictions, especially with municipal budgets being squeezed these days.

Several months ago, Ford announced that its replacement for the CVPI would be a 2012 Ford “Next Generation Police Interceptor.” This is a thinly disguised souped-up AWD version of the Chicago-built front-wheel-drive Taurus sedan. One important distinction being that it has a column-shift like the Dodge Charger Police edition, rather than the floor shift of the Chevy Caprice PPV. (This is to make room for the computer screens common in today’s cop cars). Both Ford and Chevy will have six-speed automatics; the Dodge cop car presently has a five-speed auto.

Ford’s 2012 police car also will offer a 365- horsepower Ecoboost V6, which is said to provide performance equal to or better than a V8 at considerable fuel savings. It will share the civilian Taurus 112.9-inch wheelbase.

The core issue is that police have great faith in rear-wheel-drive sedans, based on their long experience with the tough RWD CVPIs. Beefy law enforcement officers like the large package, the shoulder room, the demonstrated reliability, the RWD/body-and-frame handling.

So the questions for the police market are: (1) Will the cops buy into the FWD Fords or revert to a RWD Chevy, last offered in 1996 models? And (2) with Ford compromised, can RWD Dodge Charger carve  out a much bigger share of the police market than it has managed  since rebirth of the Charger for 2006?

Time will tell. But one thing is sure: the police car landscape will change radically beginning in the fall of 2011, little more than a year away.

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2 Responses to “New Police Cars on the Horizon”

  1. Harry says:

    don’t forget Carbon Motors

  2. Ken Zino says:

    If it ever makes a car…