Chrysler unveiled Tuesday the first photo of its all-new police car based on the Dodge Charger — providing fresh evidence of a brewing police car war in which rival automakers have one main competitor in their sights: Ford.

Although U.S. law enforcement agencies buy just about 75,000 police vehicles a year — a small number compared with the more than 10.4 million cars and trucks bought by U.S. consumers last year — the sales are profitable, given all the high-tech gadgets and upgrades on police cars.

Ford has long dominated the police car market, capturing about three-fourths of all sales, and it plans to phase out its aging Crown Victoria police car next year. The Ford Crown Victoria, which battled image problems and lawsuits over gas tank explosions in rear-end collisions, will be replaced by a Taurus-based Police Interceptor and all-new SUV-based police vehicle.

But now, Chrysler has an aggressive plan to steal share in the police market and has given its Charger police car a fitting new name: the Dodge Charger Pursuit.

That’s not the only new entry, either. General Motors plans to launch a new Caprice police car next year. What’s more, Carbon Motors, a start-up based in Connersville, Ind., hopes to begin producing a police car — built solely for that purpose — called the E7 in 2013.

“With the Crown Vic being retired, I think that market share looks appealing to all three manufacturers,” said Brian Moran, a retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who has served on both Ford and Chrysler police advisory boards.

Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. will soon benefit from a renewed level of competition among automakers vying for a piece of the police car market.

The Detroit Three automakers are planning to introduce new police cars over the next 18 months, and a start-up based in Connersville, Ind., Carbon Motors, hopes to begin producing a police car called the E7 in 2013.

On Tuesday, Chrysler revealed the first photos of its redesigned Dodge Charger Pursuit.

“There is a lot better visibility. It is a good vehicle. There is a niche for it,” said Moran.

He said both Chrysler’s new Pursuit and Ford’s new Taurus-based Police Interceptor are much better than the cars they are replacing.

Moran said he also expects GM’s new Caprice police car will be an improvement over the company’s Impala police car, although he hasn’t had a chance to drive it.

Ford’s Police Interceptor will replace its aging Crown Victoria police car. Ford also said earlier this year that it would unveil a new SUV-based police vehicle in September.

Introduced in 1983, the Crown Victoria has long dominated the police car market — even though it was blamed for the deaths of some police officers during rear-end collisions that caused explosions.

Despite that controversy, the Crown Victoria police car accounts for about 75% of the police car market with annual sales of 40,000 to 50,000.

“I’ve driven the Crown Vic right up against the … the new Police Interceptor, and the new car is much better than the Crown Victoria,” Moran said. “The new Ford comes in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and my preference is for the all-wheel drive.”

Ford’s new police car won’t be available until after the Crown Victoria is phased out at the end of 2011.

Chrysler, meanwhile, told the Free Press last year that its goal is to increase its police car sales to about 40% of the market, up from about 18%.

The Pursuit comes standard with an all-new E-85 capable 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, and it’s also available with a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine.

The Pursuit’s main advantage is that it is a rear-wheel drive vehicle, which many police departments prefer over front-wheel drive cars.

“It’s going to be a very great competitor to whatever anybody else has coming,” said Chrysler spokesman Jiyan Cadiz.

Read more: Police car wars: With Crown Victoria retiring, rivals in hot pursuit | | Detroit Free Press

I am curious to know if the designers of the new police cars have studied the auto related deaths of officers and taken into account and implemented any design measures that would have improved safety. I am aware that not all deaths can be prevented however, I am concerned that in the atmosphere of budget cuts and cost cutting, this important aspect will take a back seat. Does the membership have anyone representing them in the purchasing decisions? Has anyone asked them? Once again, it worries me to think that decisions impacting the day-to-day functions of our officers are being made without input from the people whose lives are directly effected.
– Donna Selman

One response to “Police Cars: the war heats up!

Posted by Radio Head

I think a healthy competition would best serve the police sector, with different companies vying for the top share, they’d be creating better and more cost efficient machines.

Posted on September 13, 2010 at 10:26 PM

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