When Ford discontinued the Crown Victoria in 2011, it caused a ripple effect among government fleets. If you manage police vehicles, you probably know this. You may have had to deal with it firsthand, or even continue to deal with it, as many fleets still have a few Crown Vics in rotation.
At a Glance
In the wake of Ford’s decision to discontinue its Police Interceptor Sedan, fleets will:
The solution was clear — replace. Many agencies looked to annual performance testing conducted by Michigan State Police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Or they performed their own tests, by piloting the available models. And, eventually, they chose a model and moved on.
In late April 2018, Ford announced it would discontinue its Police Interceptor Sedan. Between this and the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Caprice in 2017, making a decision this time around may be tougher.
An Industry Shift
Ford’s discontinuation of its patrol sedan is part of a larger strategy to phase out most of its sedans by 2020 in favor of a portfolio comprised of 90% trucks, vans, and SUVs. For its public safety vehicles, Ford’s sales numbers support this strategy. According to the company, 80% of its police sales last year were for the Police Interceptor Utility.
“We were previously in a market that was dominated by rear-wheel drive, V-8-powered, body-on-frame sedans,” said Stephen Tyler, police brand marketing manager for Ford. “You started seeing this shift, and all of a sudden you’re looking at these efficient V-6-powered vehicles with standard all-wheel-drive.”
Dealing with Uncertainty
When the Crown Victoria was discontinued, Dakota County, Minn., partnered with a local technical college and tested patrol car models on a track before deciding on the Police Interceptor Sedan for its Sheriff’s Office fleet. This time around, they probably won’t go through all the same testing.
“We’re just not sure where we’re going to go. It’s possible that we could switch to another manufacturer but we also don’t know whether they’re going to discontinue their sedans,” said Kevin Schlangen, CAFM, CEM, CPFP, fleet manager.
The City of Charleston, S.C., faces a similar dilemma. Scott Newsome, director of police and city fleet operations, would prefer to stick to sedans, but worries whether that will even be an option in the coming years.
According to Ford, the company will continue to offer its pursuit-rated Police Responder Hybrid Sedan, introduced last year and based on the Ford Fusion sedan. Production on the hybrid sedan will begin this summer and is expected to continue for the next few years.
“We’re going to definitely make it for a few more years,” Tyler said. “I want to assure everybody that if they place an order, we’re going to build them.”
Fleets interested in stocking up should prepare now. The earlier orders are placed, the better.
Ultimately, the fleet managers for Dakota County and the City of Charleston both believe they will probably move up to Ford’s Police Interceptor Utility.
“I feel a lot of agencies, if they run [Ford PI Sedans], will probably convert to the Ford PI Utility,” Newsome said. “We do most of our own maintenance except for warranty work, and our shop is really more set up for Ford products.”
But it isn’t the only option out there. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is also considering an upgrade to SUVs — the agency will purchase and pilot 60-100 Chevrolet Traverse SUVs. Robert Martinez, deputy commissioner of support services, said the NYPD regularly purchases retail models and modifies them in-house for patrol use. The same was done to the Ford Fusion, long before Ford announced a police package for the model.
Schlangen noted that the upcoming transition could be worse — after the Crown Vic was discontinued, Dakota County decided to analyze its purchasing strategy. Now, the fleet chooses components that fit in vehicles from multiple manufacturers, in case another discontinuation comes up. The only difference in equipment will be partitions and push bars.
The City of Philadelphia will also benefit from a change in strategy. Prior to Ford’s announcement, the city decided to diversify its fleet. When news of the PI Sedan hit the city, it had a minimal impact on the plans, according to Mike Dunn, deputy communications director. The purchase plan has not been finalized but will likely include the Dodge Charger Pursuit and a mix of SUV models.
One challenge of this switch is the cost — the PI Utility carries a higher price tag than the sedan, and fleets don’t expect budgets to change to accommodate this.
Newsome noted that it can be pricier to upfit the PI Utility, as it would require two partitions instead of one and a secure vault in the rear cargo area to make up for lost trunk storage. His fleet would have to consider increasing its budget or reducing the amount of vehicles purchased annually.
Dakota County may extend replacement cycles for some of its vehicles to cover the additional cost.