By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
Sport utility vehicles are quickly replacing cars as the vehicle of choice for police forces across the nation.
Demand for specially equipped SUVs is growing faster than for of sedans, which have been stalwarts in police fleets for decades. Utility vehicles in recent years have become more efficient and are roomier and safer than sedans.
Major police forces, including the California Highway Patrol, have added SUVs to their fleet, and many more — including the Nevada Highway Patrol — are expected to follow suit in coming years.
“It's not a fad,” said Jonathan Honeycutt, Ford’s fleet brand marketing manager, in a telephone interview. “This is where the industry is moving.”
Ford’s police version of the Crown Victoria — Ford stopped taking orders in 2011 — was the dominant choice for law enforcement agencies. When it was retired, other automakers saw the chance to seize a greater share of the market.
Ford expected its Explorer-based police Interceptor SUV to comprise about 30 percent of its police fleet sales. But in recent months, that number has approached 70 percent.
Through July, Ford has actually sold 7,288 police SUVs compared to 6,046 Taurus-based police sedans.
General Motors Co. offers its Caprice and Impala as police sedans and the Tahoe as an SUV; Chrysler has its Charger sedan and Durango SUV.
GM expects Tahoe sales to increase in 2013 compared to 2012. Tahoe sales to all government customers including police agencies was about 13,000 vehicles last year, GM spokesman Jim Cain said in an email. Total sales figures for the GM sedans were not available. Chrysler sales figures were not immediately available.
The Dearborn automaker expects demand to grow even more following today’s announcement that it will offer its patented 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine as an option in the Interceptor SUV.
The move toward SUVs represents yet another transition among police vehicle fleets.
In the past, police cruisers were typically rear-wheel drive, body-on-frame sedans with V-8 engines. Ford’s Crown Victoria, discontinued in 2011, was the best example of this.
But as automakers began to shift away from rear-wheel drive cars with large engines, the options for police vehicles with those attributes has declined.
Reprinted with permission from Detroit News