All things must pass, a wise man once wrote. And, so it must pass with the venerable Ford Crown Victoria – both for everyday car buyers and for police officers.
After 15 years of dominating the police-cruiser market, the Crown Vic will retire in late 2011. That means police agencies all over the country will have some decisions to make, since about 85 percent of the 75,000 police cars currently sold in the U.S. are Crown Vics.
Indeed, the Crown Vic has “lorded it” over that market since 1996, when GM stopped building the Chevy Caprice, which for years was Ford’s main competitor in the police-car niche.What's New
But police agencies will have plenty of options as they look for replacements. In October and November, General Motors and Ford, respectively, announced their own plans for all-new police cars that will be “purpose-built” -- that is, specifically designed and built as police cruisers.
GM said it will start building a new Chevy Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) in time for it to be hit the highways in early 2011, and Ford announced it will deliver the new Ford Police Interceptor in time to replace the Crown Vic cruiser when it goes away later that year.
And there’s also the new Carbon Motors, which has announced it will produce a new purpose-built police cruiser of its own -- which it is currently referring to as the “E7," or more potently as "The Machine" -- starting in 2012.
Ford actually has several models currently being used by police departments, including the Escape Hybrid, the Explorer XLT, the Expedition and the Fusion Hybrid. Presently, GM has two other models used by police agencies -- the Chevy Impala and Chevy Tahoe SUV.GM's Plans
Brian Goebel, GM’s product communications manager, said that the decision to produce the Caprice PPV was not a reaction to Ford’s decision to discontinue the Crown Vic.
“We’re already building and selling the rear-wheel-drive Caprice in the Middle East, as part of our global-family rear-wheel-drive vehicles,” said Goebel. “And we’d never really left the police-car business, because we still have the Impala and Tahoe. So since we already had the platform and the resources, we felt it made sense to do this as well.”
Goebel wouldn’t predict how much of the police-car market share the Caprice would capture. “We don’t know how it will shake out competitively, but we do believe the Caprice will be a major player in that market,” he said. “We think it will have some unique capabilities and features.”
The Caprice PPV will be powered by a 6.0L V-8 engine with Active Fuel Management technology and E85 capability. GM says it will do the 0-to-60 sprint in less than six seconds, and Goebel said it will have a top speed “in the 150-mph range. We’re not sure exactly what the horsepower will be yet, but it will be in the neighborhood of 355.”
One notable feature in the future Caprice PPV will be front seats that are “sculpted” to conform to the shape of the various items that police officers carry in their equipment belts. “So, it’s a more comfortable seat for officers, many of whom spend long hours behind the wheel,” said Goebel.Chrysler's Plans
Chrysler also has an entry -- the Dodge Charger police vehicle. For a time, there was a Dodge Magnum police car as well, but that model was discontinued last year.
“We will continue to produce the Charger police vehicle in 2011” and beyond, said Chrysler spokesperson Kathy Graham. “We see Ford's decision (to discontinue the Crown Vic) an opportunity to grow our market share -- our goal is to increase our market share to 40 percent over the next 12-14 months.”
She added that Chrysler presently has approximately 35,000 police vehicles on the road, with a 17 percent market share.Ford's Plans
As for the new Ford Police Interceptor, Ford has not released any details about the powertrain, but said the Interceptor is being developed in conjunction with Ford’s Police Advisory Board, which provided input during the past 14 months on issues like safety, performance, durability, driver convenience and comfort. All signs point to the next Ford Police Interceptor being based on the rear-drive Falcon, from Ford's Australian unit.
“We have heard the repeated requests from the law enforcement community to continue uninterrupted support of (police agencies),” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas, in a statement. “So, Ford is answering the call with the new Police Interceptor.”
The Ford Police Interceptor will be built on the D platform, said Ford spokesman Robert Parker. Other Ford / Lincoln vehicles “such as the Taurus, MKS, Flex and MKT all share either a part of or parts” of that platform, he said.
Ford plans to reveal the new model and provide full vehicle specifications in the first quarter of ‘10 -- in time for law enforcement agencies, police equipment manufacturers and upfitters to develop a transition plan from the Crown Victoria to the new product.A New Entry
Meanwhile, Carbon Motors’ rear-wheel-drive E7 police vehicle will be powered by a Forced Induction Diesel engine that will deliver 250 horsepower, said Stacy Stephens, Carbon Motors’ co-founder.
Stephens added that the company has accepted over 12,000 production-slot reservations for the E7 thus far, but declined to share the company’s first-year unit-production projections or market-share goals.
Stephens said that it “makes good business sense” for a stand-alone company to exclusively produce police vehicles -- compared to the traditional practice of big carmakers producing them as a small percentage of their total vehicle production.
One benefit of a vehicle being specifically designed as a police car is “officer safety,” said Stephens. In a purpose-built vehicle, he said, “the laptop computer and camera are built right into the cockpit, so, if there’s a crash, they’re not flying around inside the cabin.”
He added that the vehicle’s biological and chemical weapons sensors, as well as its traffic-monitoring radar system, will also be built right into the vehicle.
Whichever vehicle ends up leading the market, you can be sure you'll see them soon enough. Just watch your speed.