last 10 years has seen some major changes in UK policing—many of them obvious, and
not all of them positive. That means, like in nearly all police departments, the
‘thin blue line’ is being stretched tighter than ever. That was the situation according
to many police fleet managers interviewed at the 2014 Blue and Amber Light Fleet
Exhibition—better known as the National Association of Police Fleet Managers convention.
of the fittest” would be an appropriate theme for the June 2014 event held in
the Telford Exhibition Centre in the English Midlands with the familiar—albeit
shrinking—mix of manufacturers and importers.
2004, there has been a dramatic cull of manufacturers in the UK emergency
services marketplace. Some, like MG Rover, simply went out of business. Others
have withdrawn from the marketplace. Today, just two Japanese and one Korean manufacturers
now join 11 automakers from Europe actively involved in police vehicle sales.
German, French, Japanese, Swedish, Korean and British (in name only) machines
form the mainstay of UK police fleets, upon closer examination, it is very much
a case of German domination in sedans and French, German and Turkish manufacturers
leading the way in light commercial sales. Of the Germans, two manufacturers —BMW
and the VW Audi Group (representing Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW)—are very much in
the ascendant. Mercedes Benz is hoping to soon re-enter the lucrative market
after a five-year absence.
cars and vans from Peugeot are holding their own thanks to a massive capital
investment by parent group PSA Peugeot-Citroen. (Peugeot-Citroen is the second
largest automaker in Europe.) The result is a swathe of new models including
the 208, 308 and new Partner and Boxer ranges.
Hyundai is continuing to grow its market share and is now a very significant player
in a number of fleets, including the London Metropolitan Police and forces in
the northwest counties of England. The Swedes? Volvo has also benefitted from
massive investment by new Chinese owners, Geely.
UK, finally, is represented by Ford, Vauxhall, Peugeot and Jaguar Land Rover. On
the evidence of the 2014 NAPFM show, it is questionable just how long the
latter—especially Jaguar—will be a force with which to be reckoned. There is one
more ‘reborn’ British manufacturer that just might reveal its hand in the next
year or so. Read on for more in an alphabetical roundup of this year’s show.
officers nationwide will soon be putting Audi’s impressive new Q5 to the test.
The sports utility took pride of place on the company stand—and looks like a
popular addition to Audi’s police fleet offerings. A 3.0L TDI 245ps SE Quattro STronic will soon be on trial by a number of
forces whose feedback will be vital in gauging its viability. Audi has
seen impressive year-on-year growth in the high-profile police marketplace
after Mercedes Benz withdrew some five years ago.
unique Quattro drivetrain and state-of-the-art diesel power are just two of the
reasons forces nationwide use the cars in a variety of front-line covert and overt
roles. Their police demonstrator has been fitted
with 360-degree visibility discreet lighting and a siren for covert operational
use. Audi, like all other manufacturers, play 999 sales close to their
chest. However, perhaps 10 police forces in the UK are enthusiastic customers
with both A4 and A6 models proving their worth in a variety of marked and
unmarked road policing roles.
biggest stand at the show? That honor belonged to BMW, which had a lot to exhibit
in terms of new models and new concepts for the police. Everything from the
diminutive new electric i3 to the mighty BMW X5 in a variety of guises were
there with the latter one of the most popular fleet members with forces like
Lancashire, where it is used in a number of front-line roles with utter
Fleet Manager Chris Malkin said, “We fuel them, top them up with oil, and let
them do what they are supposed to. They are excellent machines, and tailor-made
for firearms and road policing roles.” BMW 3 and 5 series models remain popular
for road policing. BMW’s MINI is making its mark in a small variety of ‘back
office’ roles. One in particular is the MINI One D, a particular a stylish
small hatchback with mini running costs and maximum street cred. BMW boasts it
produces “the right vehicle for any situation.” It is hard to argue with that.
many years, Ford has been a frontrunner in many UK 999 fleets. That dominance
has been continually challenged by Vauxhall and most recently by Hyundai. With
a new Mondeo and updated Focus waiting in the wings, Ford put the emphasis on
its growing light commercial range for this year’s show. The Tourneo, Fiesta
van and new Transit all sharing the spotlight. Most impressive was the latest
addition to the Transit range, its huge 17-seater minibus, which in civilian
specification, showed the potential of the newcomer.
was a tale of two manufacturers in Expo Hall Two where Honda and Hyundai were
next to each other. Ten years ago, Honda made the running with a number of cars
in UK forces thanks to their manufacture in Swindon, Wiltshire County—the CRV,
Civic and Accord were bought for their reliability, economy and longevity.
the company offers just three models for 999 services, the new CRV with its
brilliant 1.6L diesel engine, new diesel Civic with the same engine, and latest
Accord tourer with the mighty 180 PS diesel power plant. Honda is now
developing a brand-new range of three-cylinder high-power gasoline engines. It
will be interesting if these new power plants filter through for use in police
good news just keeps on coming from Hyundai. They are now an established player
with their i20, i30 and i40 models all in diesel form. These are ‘force’s favorites’
with customers including The Met and in and around the NW of England with
Cheshire, Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester County forces all
fleet sales specialist Gavin Thompson has been instrumental in promoting
Hyundai, building up an excellent reputation for taking on board ‘bouquets and
brickbats’ from fleet managers. That has seen stronger clutches engineered for
the i30 estates (station wagon) and more robust door pulls for the same models—small
but important changes in a car which performs consistently well on the front
in display was a Cambridgeshire County i40 tourer with 50,000 miles on the
clock. Thompson indicted why Hyundai won’t be moving into Highways Agency and
firearms roles dominated by machines like the BMW X5. Its Santa Fe simply
doesn’t have the muscle to rival the 240 PS of the mighty German machine.
Jaguar - Land Rover
will the future hold for Jaguar Land Rover? With just two vehicles on display,
some think the company is in danger of pricing itself out of its traditional
market. The Tata Motors (India) company will make its next big decision replacing
the venerable Defender. The Discovery is being succeeded soon with a new
sportier and no doubt more expensive model. Jaguar, too, is a pale reflection
of what it used to be even 10 years ago. However, a new saloon (sedan) from
Jaguar is in the works. This may rival the BMW 3 series, Mercedes Benz C Class,
and Audi A4 models and might reassert its presence in the 999 market.
of Mercedes Benz, the company is now preparing to re-enter the UK 999 market
with a number of models being examined by the UK Government Home Office for
appropriate accreditation. It looks like the E class will be offered for road
policing with the powerful diesel option while its commercial range still has a
lot to offer with models including the Citan, Vito and new Sprinter.
has been 40 years since Mitsubishi (then known as the Colt Car Company) launched
in the UK. Since then, its muscular Shogun range started to make its mark in
Highway Agency fleets. That dominance is continuing today, the company wisely
leaving changes to a minimum. The latest 3.2L diesel machines are cleaner and
greener but also as roomy, reliable and capable as ever. Shoguns can run for up
to 250,000 miles with regular servicing, never missing a beat for Highway
Agency traffic officers on the front line. When they are disposed of, Mitsubishi’s
purpose built emergency service facility simply strips out all the policing kits
and then refurbishes and re-installs them in new models.
other highlight on the company stand was its new Outlander PHEV, a purpose-built
cross roader with a twist. Electric power from a generator run by a 2.0L
gasoline engine makes it one of the greenest All-Wheel Drive models in the 999 marketplace.
This is a compelling game changer for green thinking fleet managers.
Motors, as it is now known, has not committed to the police car market—yet. A
sole MG6 is now serving with the West Midlands Fire Service. However, a police sales
consultant visited the Longbridge, Birmingham factory recently as the company—now
part of mega Sino outfit SAIC—contemplates openings with police and fire
fleets. The biggest hurdle at the moment is its high C02 pollution figures although
recent engineering changes to the MG6 diesel has lowered them somewhat, while
the sporty MG3 looks like it would make a great urban police car.
in the wings is its CS sports utility, a first for MG and launching in 2015.
SAIC also owns LDV and is re-building the old Maxus in updated form in a number
of far eastern plants in Left Hand Drive and Right Hand Drive. Can it be a matter
of time before the firm looks at re-entering the police personnel carrier and general-purpose
company Peugeot still has substantial interests in the UK. Peugeot is literally
‘getting a grip’ on a section of police car sales thanks to the innovative Grip
Control fitted on its 2008 and 3008 crossovers. A rolling DVD at their display
stand showed the system in action on a snow dome and in real-world, off-road
driving. The 2008 crossover showed an impressive grasp of most driving situations
on mud, rain and snow that would hamper progress in a ‘normal’ model. Amazingly,
grip control adds just $200 to the cost of a police car, which makes it a real
‘no brainer’ for police fleet managers.
other newcomer was the Car of the Year, the Peugeot 308 hatchback, soon to be
joined by a commodious estate (wagon) version with some very clever three-cylinder
petrol and diesel engines. Two choices for covert policing were on display also:
the feisty 208 GTi and the imposing 508 sedan, the pinnacle of the company’s UK
range. Also taking a bow were latest versions of the Partner and Boxer van range.
SEAT - Skoda
has not really capitalized on the desirability of its UK model range in the UK
with police fleets over the last few years. As the ‘sporty’ arm of the VW Audi family,
models of interest to police fleet managers were the Leon range while its Alhambra
MPV’s been in demand in a number of police transport ‘shuttle’ roles.
though, is still very much making a play for police and paramedic fleet custom.
On show was a new purpose-built Eibach-sprung suspension system for the latest Octavia
Scout 4x4 model to cater for a higher payload. Its sports-orientated vRS range
is also used by a number of forces for overt and covert road policing duties in
hatch and estate variants.
new VW took a bow at the show, representing a ‘first’ for the company’s
specialist marketing team. Highlight of its stand was an imposing Touareg
concept for the Highways Agency whose vehicles are a familiar sight on UK
motorways. Based on the accomplished 3.0L TDI, it has been tailored to exacting
Highway Agency specification and finished in its striking livery markings.
Group’s Steven Cowell said, “The agency has some fairly specific requirements
for their vehicles, which in turn has taken some development work on our behalf
to get a vehicle built to its exacting specification. This includes the
approval for some of the additional fitted equipment. It is not unknown for its
officers to tow heavy trucks onto the motorway hard shoulder to keep the carriageway
running smoothly. While the Touareg has a hefty 3.5-tonne towing capacity, we
still had to develop a specific NATO-style tow bar with enough ‘pulling’
capacity for rapid recovery of heavy vehicles from the carriageway.”
news from Vauxhall was just that—the new bigger Vivaro light van range. Over
the last few years, the Vauxhall Vivaro has been a credible rival to the Ford Transit
and now, for 2014, even more so. It made its debut in a number of versions. So
while Vauxhall has lost out to rival Hyundai in the patrol car market, the new
Vivaro could well take an even greater market share thanks to a comprehensive
makeover, which makes it leaner, greener and more refined.
the personnel carrier conversion of the Movano was one of the biggest vehicles
on show, displayed with a full complement of police kit. Car-wise, the company
showed latest version of the Corsa five-door Astra, along with the all-electric
Ampera and the Insignia. The latter is now available in All-Wheel Drive and dubbed
the Country Tourer.
is still vying for attention in a number of overt and covert roles with the
firm displaying a turnkey car. This was fresh from the Swedish police, which
are built on a customized production line in Gothenburg. Unique features for
police specification cars show just how well thought-out they are with a number
of bespoke interior and exterior features. These include 17-inch alloys, bigger
brakes, special speed-rated tires, stronger shock absorbers, unique harder
wearing upholstery, and extra cup holders for covert use. On display too was a
bespoke XC70 from the company’s Swedish police car production line.
Roger Blaxall is a former police officer with the Greater Manchester Police and the Lancashire Constabulary in North England. He now writes on the emergency services with particular reference to police vehicles for magazines in the U.S. and Europe.