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OEM Report: Automotive
Friday | 03 September, 2010 | 3:50 am

First-responders get upgrade

By Meghan Siroky

September 2010 - When someone calls 911, police officers are the first to respond on scene. Improved police cruisers, designed with officer needs in mind, allow law enforcement officials to do their duty as effectively as possible. These advanced fleet models are due to hit the streets within the next few years.

Safety first
Officer safety is the No. 1 concern for Stacy Dean Stephens, co-founder and director of communications at Carbon Motors Corp., Connersville, Ind. The company's E7 is the world's first and only purpose-built police cruiser and is about three years from the start of production.

As a former police officer, Stephens has firsthand experience in the field. He says Carbon Motors, founded in 2003, went directly to law enforcement agencies and asked what they needed in a vehicle. "It's odd that fire departments and emergency medical services, the military and even your postal workers and your garbage collectors all have purpose-built vehicles, but somehow law enforcement was overlooked along the way," Stephens says. "The Carbon E7 is designed to provide the highest level of officer protection using world-class technologies and processes."

Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich., also aims to help ensure officer safety with its revamped vehicle. "Continuing Ford's safety leadership includes engineering the [Crown Victoria] Police Interceptor to pass 75-miles-per-hour rear-end crash testing," according to a press release. "Currently, the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor is the only pursuit sedan to meet this test."

Other models expected to hit the streets in the next few years include General Motors Australia's Chevrolet Caprice PPV and the redesigned Dodge Charger.

Key features
Ford has 71 percent of the average market share on police-rated vehicles. Currently, there are five police-rated vehicles in the market, according to Lisa Teed, Ford's Police Interceptor product marketing manager and brand manager. The available models in the marketplace include the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, Dodge Charger 3.6L, Dodge Charger 5.7L, the Chevy Impala and Chevy Tahoe.

Teed attributes Ford's success in the law-enforcement market to "the continuity of the vehicle that we've had in the marketplace for the last 15 years, which is the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor." Although the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor will be sold for the next year, Ford has introduced one of its two replacements. In addition to the sedan, which Ford unveiled in March, the auto market can expect a utility vehicle, details of which Ford has not yet disclosed. Both models will bear the Police Interceptor nameplate.

"The sedan that we're going to provide meets and exceeds the expectation for what the Crown Victoria has been for us," says Teed. "So [with] the Crown Victoria being our benchmark police vehicle, we are taking the next-generation vehicles and meeting or exceeding what that vehicle currently provides in market."

Advancements such as reverse sending, blind spot monitoring and steering wheel controls will be available features in the new patrol vehicle. Also a V-6 power train called EcoBoost increases horsepower and offers improved fuel efficiency.

"EcoBoost brings municipalities and police fleet administrators the first ultra high-performance, yet environmentally friendly, police pursuit vehicle," according to a press release.

Another important feature the sedan will offer is all-wheel drive. After consulting with its police advisory board, Ford decided to give customers the options of all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive.

"In a situation where you're driving either fast or doing a lot of cornering, doing aggressive braking, starting and stopping--the all-wheel drive's going to keep the vehicle on the intended path," says Teed.

Stephens points out that 20 years ago, the interior tools of a typical patrol car included a light, a siren and maybe a radio. "That's a far cry from the technology-packed, electronically complex crime fighting cockpits of today. The Carbon E7's options for advanced features include automatic license plate recognition, weapons of mass destruction detection, infrared night vision capability and 360-degree highly conspicuous lighting. Rear-hinged doors make loading suspects into the back seat compartment easier and safer, and the 40 percent improvement in fuel economy and 250,000-mile durability specification make it extremely attractive to cash-strapped and budget-minded agencies." MM

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