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Dodge Charger challenges Ford for police fleet market


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Dodge Charger challenges Ford for police fleet market

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

Chrysler Group LLC will make a bigger play for the police fleet market with the all-new Dodge Charger coming later this year.

"We will go after that market hard," Peter Grady, Chrysler's head of network development and fleet said Tuesday in a speech before the NAFA Fleet Management Association at Cobo Center.

The announcement ramps up the competition among Detroit automakers to sell vehicles to police departments nationwide.

Ford Motor Co. will discontinue its market-leading full-size Crown Victoria for police use in September 2011 and replace it with an Interceptor based on the new Ford Taurus. A second vehicle based on the Ford Explorer will follow.

General Motors Co. is introducing a new rear-drive Chevrolet Caprice police car for 2011.

Ford has had a stranglehold on the market, with the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor capturing more than 70 percent of police car sales in the nation each year. Ford took over as the segment leader when GM discontinued the Caprice in 1996.

The Charger accounts for 18 percent of sales to police departments, an increase from 14 percent in 2007 when Chrysler introduced the Charger police package, the automaker said.

The new police Charger will be based on the remade Charger Chrysler is launching in November. The Charger rollout will be followed by a new and more elegant Chrysler 300 boasting a plethora of covered storage bins and cup holders. The sedans are among 16 all-new or refreshed vehicles the automaker is introducing this year, Grady said.

Prototypes of the new Charger will be tested by the Michigan State Police Precision Driving Unit, which tests all manufacturers' police cars and issues an annual report that serves as a buyers' guide. It is usually published in November.

Chrysler works with a police advisory board whose recommendations, along with past test results, were taken into consideration in developing the new Charger so the car could be outfitted for police use, Chrysler spokesman Jiyan Cazid said.

Changing a car for police use can include enhancing engine performance and customizing rear seats to more easily accommodate criminal suspects, among other alterations.

The Police Vehicle Evaluation report for 2010 models, published in November, tested 2010 versions of the Charger, Ford Interceptor and Chevrolet Impala and Tahoe. The Charger proved best-in-class in available power with its 360-horsepower Hemi V-8 engine, as well as acceleration, top speed and overall vehicle dynamics, the report found.

Police departments have expressed concern about replacing the sturdy, body-on-frame Crown Vic with smaller, lighter vehicles of unibody construction such as the Charger and the coming Taurus-based Interceptor.

The Charger is rear-wheel drive, which many departments prefer because it provides more even weight distribution, better traction under acceleration and crisper handling on dry roads.

The future Interceptor will be front- or all-wheel drive.

Chrysler was a big player in the police car market in the 1960s with the Plymouth Grand Fury and several of its models have been used by law enforcement over the years.

Chrysler re-entered the market in 2004 with a Dodge Magnum wagon powered by a Hemi V-8 engine. The Magnum has since been discontinued.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100428/AUTO01/4280331/1148/auto01/Dodge-Charger-challenges-Ford-for-police-fleet-market#ixzz0mOlyB3uH

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