Will a Chevrolet Caprice rise again to the top of patrol?
With the Ford Motor Co. well down the road toward retiring American law enforcement's standard bearer patrol car (CVPI), senior General Motors executives told POLICE Magazine they're confident the 2011 Chevrolet Caprice PPV will return the brand to prominance.
An earlier version was a hot pursuer that gave law officers an unfair advantage against traffic scofflaws.
A Chevrolet Caprice produced from 1986 to 1996 — offered with a 5.7-liter V8 engine — quickly established itself with law enforcement purchasers due to its full size, body-on-frame construction and rear-wheel drivetrain.
During a fleet round-table at POLICE Magazine's Torrance headquarters last week, GM executives said the 2011 model to be initially offered with a 5.7-liter V-8 should again make Chevrolet the patrol car of choice.
Currently, about 70 percent of patrol cars now sold are Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors. The Dodge Charger counts about 17 percent of the market, while Chevrolet's Impala front-wheel patrol car and pursuit-rated Tahoe making up the remainder.
"I'd like to flip those percentages around," said Brian Small, executive dirctor of GM's fleet and commerical operations. "We haven't set a goal, but we think that we can take most of Ford's market share with the product that we're coming out with."
The confidence of General Motors executives grew with the Chevy Caprice's impressive performance at the Michigan State Police's annual vehicle tests. The vehicle hit a top speed of 148 mph and reached 0-60 mph quickest (6.14 or 6.18 seconds, depending on the fuel mix) of the vehicles tested, including Ford's Taurus-based 2012 Police Interceptor.
To achieve its lofty goals, the Detroit automaker has been taking steps to expose officers and law enforcement fleet buyers to the vehicle by issuing preview vehicles to agencies, hosting Ride-n-Drive events and gleaning feedback from its police advisory board.
When designing the Caprice cockpit, GM engineers emphasized ergonomics for officers by using scalloped seats with a cut-out so a service weapon or other duty gear won't dig into an officer's back, according to Joyce Mattman, product director of GM's fleet and commercial operations.
"It is their office," Mattman told POLICE. "It's where they spend all their time and it's got to be a comfortable environment for them."
The Caprice's spacious interior offers 112 cubic feet. By means of comparison, the Dodge Charger gives 104 cubic feet; the current Impala measures 104.8 cubic feet; and the CVPI provides 106.4 cubic feet.
The execs also said the automaker will continue producing the affordable Impala — budget-strapped departments prefer it for its price tag and front-wheel drive that's useful for snow-banked officers — and the Tahoe. No plans are in the works to bring back a Camaro patrol car, Mattman added.