Quick quiz: What vehicle transported Paris Hilton to prison? If you answered Ford's Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, you took the easy route and you were correct. The older than thou Crown Vic accounts for about 85% of the 75,000 police vehicles sold each year – a market where styling, amenities and new safety features have little to do with the vehicle's success.

The CV's body-on-frame construction helps the ubiquitous cop cruiser stand up to the punishment doled out by the guys and gals in blue. Body-on-frame platforms are generally also easier to repair, and anyone who has been in a police parking lot can plainly see that these vehicles take a big-time beating in the name of public safety. The CV is also rear-wheel drive for better handling, it's large enough to fit even the biggest of felons (and cops), and its column-mounted shifter enables the fuzz to have plenty of room for a laptop. But alas, the Crown Vic is also older than dirt. We'd joke that Henry Ford himself had a hand in the creation of the CV, but chances are that Henry II actually did, and he retired as the head of the Blue Oval when Pong was state-of-the-art video gaming technology.

According to The Detroit News, in June, Ford hosted police personnel from some of America's biggest cities to discuss the future of the police cruiser. The Dearborn, MI-based automaker told the police departments that the Crown Vic would be gone by 2011. That's bad news for departments like the LAPD, which has a shop set up specifically to deal with the CV. Some police departments told the Motown newspaper that rear-drive vehicles like the Charger can't hold up to the abuse of police work. Others are looking into the Impala, though the front-drive Chevy hasn't gained much traction with law enforcement. One ray of hope could come in the form of the Carbon Motors E7 purpose built police cruiser, but it isn't quite ready for prime time yet, and it's likely to be significantly more expensive than the equivalent Blue Oval cruiser.

Ford is in a bit of a predicament in that the Crown Vic has the police (and cab) market to itself and, as Ford President Mark Fields points out to The Detroit News, the CV gives Ford a presence in just about every municipality in America. One vehicle that Ford gave to police to drive during their stay in Dearborn was the new Taurus, which is almost as big and roomy as the CV, but with far more safety tech, improved fuel economy and the (costly) option of an Ecoboost V6 under the hood in the form of the SHO model. The Taurus may not be the ultimate answer (at least it won't be outrun by a Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima), but Ford insists that it isn't giving up its police share without a fight.

[Source: Detroit News]