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Detroit automakers offer cops choices

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Detroit automakers offer cops choices

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. isn't the only automaker rolling out a new police car. This will be the first year in recent memory that all three Detroit automakers offer new police vehicles simultaneously.

That is setting the stage for an epic showdown for the black-and-white market. But the winner is already clear: the nation's law enforcement agencies.

"Any time manufacturers offer a variety of tools to law enforcement, it's to our advantage," said Vartan Yegiyan, director of police transportation for the Los Angeles Police Department, one of the nation's largest. "I am very excited about how many choices we are going to have."

Today, the U.S. law enforcement market is dominated by Ford's Crown Victoria. General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC also offer police cars, but they have posed little threat to Ford, until now.

Ford's Crown Vic accounts for more than 70 percent of the approximately 75,000 vehicles sold to U.S. law enforcement agencies annually. Chrysler's Dodge Charger is a distant second, with 18 percent. But it plans to introduce an all-new version later this year.

Before the Crown Vic arrived in the early 1990s, GM's Chevrolet Caprice was the car of choice. It was discontinued in 1996, and there have been few takers for the Impala GM offered in its place.

But GM plans to offer a new Caprice based on a Holden platform from Australia in 2011.

Like the much-loved Crown Vic, the Charger and Caprice will be rear-wheel-drive vehicles. That could give them an advantage over Ford's new Police Interceptor, which will be available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Police have typically preferred the performance of rear-wheel drive, including better handling in turns.

"A lot is going to depend on how wedded the police market is to the rear-wheel-drive architecture," said Erich Merkle of Autoconomy.com.

"But the size, room and width of the interior space is going to be very important, too. The Ford certainly provides that roominess. I'm not sure about the Caprice and the Charger."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100512/AUTO01/5120334/1148/auto01/Detroit-automakers-offer-cops-choices#ixzz0nibz7oft

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