The Dodge Police Advisory Board (PAB) met in Savannah during June to check out the new police vehicles, and to be a part of a two-way exchange of information. The PAB listened to Dodge Fleet (sales, service, engineers, management) and then Dodge Fleet listened to their advisory board (sworn and civilian fleet managers, shop superintendents, chiefs, sheriffs, EVOC instructors).
The PAB got to drive the Charger Pursuit 5.7L Hemi® V8, the Charger Pursuit 3.6L Pentastar V6, and the just-released Ram 1500 Special Service Vehicle and the Dodge Durango Special Service Vehicle. Police Fleet Manager put over 1,000 miles on these two new SSVs before they were released. For a review, go to www.hendonpub.com, click Resources, and then Article Archives.
New for 2013
New for the 2013 Charger Pursuit, the front air dam has been modified. The under belly pan on the retail Charger limits and smoothes airflow under the chassis for better aerodynamics and fuel economy. Unfortunately, what makes the under body sleek also limits airflow to the front brake rotors. On a retail car, that doesn’t matter. Of course, it does on a police car. For 2013, the Charger Pursuit gets a modified under belly pan that has the aero-blocks removed allowing direct airflow to the front rotors. The result is brakes that run 50 degrees F cooler.
Continuing for 2013, as it has been since 2011, are special paints with no minimum order quantity. The piggable paint system is able to run as few as just one Charger per color. Bright Silver is now among the available special paints. There is no two-tone factory paint – the (MOPAR/Crown) option is for a vinyl wrap, which all three police automakers have gone to.
For 2013, the oil change logic has been programmed to increase the maximum interval from 8,000 miles to 10,000 miles. Dodge has also added an Automatic Oil Change Indicator algorithm that considers a variety of factors for illumination. The algorithm considers idle hours, but that is just one of the operational factors. The light will illuminate after 350 hours of engine operation. However, other factors may cause it to illuminate earlier.
On the officer safety front, the Charger Pursuit continues to come with seven standard airbags: two front, two side thorax, two side curtain and now a driver’s knee airbag. The Charger Pursuit has had these safety features since the 2011 redesign.
Improving Local Dealers
Pete Grady, VP of Network Development & Fleet, and George Bomanski, National Law Enforcement Service Manager, both spoke of ongoing efforts to improve the technical expertise and market awareness of local dealers when it comes to police vehicles. In fact, Dodge wants to know about local dealerships that are not fleet-friendly, police-friendly.
Today, 600 dealerships have an Express Lane with a police priority and 80 percent of all dealers have Saturday hours. That is 95 percent in metro areas. The way technicians are trained and evaluated is changing from a curriculum (attendance)-based format to a competency-based format. To achieve the Gold Tool award, the tech must take 12 tests a year, each covering separate areas – and one is police vehicles.
On the parts side, Dodge has a special program for emergency vehicles that are down. Even though the part may show as back-ordered for several weeks, they have a system in place to deliver the back-ordered part within 48 hours for a police vehicle. Have the local dealer contact the regional fleet service manager with whom the police agency is and what the part number is.
On the corporate end, Dodge has a dedicated and enhanced fleet hotline: 800-999-FLEET. This is the best way to get answers, and the best way to document service issues and possible new service problems. Dodge has a weekly conference call with field, service, corporate quality, supplier quality and factory quality personnel to track and resolve service issues. Dodge Fleet knows that Sales sells one car, and Service sells the rest.
Police-Specific Durability Testing
Neil Young, the law enforcement Vehicle Integration Responsible (VIR) covered some of the structural durability testing in the police duty cycle. This four-month accelerated testing at proving grounds in Michigan and Arizona works out to 150K customer equivalent miles. The Charger is loaded to match the expected police usage, which is different than retail usage.
The tests include what everyone thinks about proving grounds: pot holes, washboard roads, frame twists, bumps and dips, low amplitude roughness, high amplitude jounces. All of these are also part of “retail” vehicle structural tests. In addition to running or re-running retail-oriented tests, Dodge does some police-only, police-specific development tests, again to better match expected police usage.
Dodge kept adding unique police-specific durability tests until their durability test results correlated with real-world police results. These special events are based on warranty claims or other complaints, surveys and tests performed by Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sherriff. The end result is a durability schedule that better matches expected police pursuit usage and detects design issues during testing and development so corrective actions can be taken prior to releasing the product to the field.
For police cars, they added an urban speed curb impact, and they tripled the number of hard, controlled stops. Dodge added a special handling course with cornering forces up to 0.8 g, which is far in excess of anything a normal retail car sees, except the SRT vehicles. This handling course duplicates the loads and forces seen in pursuit driving, and especially the tests performed by the Michigan State Police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff. It is run clockwise, then counter-clockwise.
Dodge also added a power steering test based on a tight and lengthy EVOC course where the steering wheel is turned lock-to-lock for an extended period of time. The final police-specific durability test was an extended idle test at elevated ambient temps. The results from these tests would never have been picked up in a retail-oriented test.
Each of the sub-systems (powertrain, drivetrain, suspension, body-chassis, brakes-wheels-tires) undergoes separate design verification testing. All of the added police-specific tests were in-car tests, to check the durability of all at once. All in all, Dodge durability tests that put 30K miles on the Charger Pursuit odometer equal 150K miles of police use.
Lee Calkins, OEM Product Manager with Crown NA, discussed a number of upfit components they install for Dodge, offline from the factory, but under the factory umbrella. The most significant of these is the MOPAR/Setina push bumper, a combination of steel brackets and aluminum uprights and crossbars.
Since Crown NA is an extension of the Dodge factory, the MOPAR/Setina push bumper is the first push bumper to be fully compliant with two important Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Automakers must comply with these. No aftermarket manufacturer even tests for FMVSS compliance. In fact, all of the Whelen, Havis and Setina upfit parts installed by Crown NA have been crash tested for FMVSS 208 compliance.
For the push bumper, the first FMVSS standard involves crashworthiness and airbag compatibility. Does mounting a push bumper on the front of a police vehicle affect the airbag deployment signal? Yes, according Chrysler crash testing involving both vehicles and crash sleds. Does it raise the speed required? Lower the deployment speed?
As it turns out, the aftermarket addition of a push bumper deployed the multi-stage airbag at the wrong level. It deployed with too much force. Chrysler used the crash test information to develop the MOPAR/Setina push bumper and mounting in a way to work with the airbag deployment sensors.
The FMVSS 108 standard involves off-axis visibility of the vehicle’s lights with the push bumper mounted. Per FMVSS, the turn signals have to be seen at a 45-degree angle inward and an 85-degree angle outward. Some push bumpers installed on some vehicles do not meet the FMVSS 108 lighting spec. The MOPAR/Setina push bumper on the Charger Pursuit does.
For departments running a full-size spare, a must-have Crown NA upfit item is the flat-mounted spare tire. Instead of the angle-mounted OE full-size spare, the MOPAR brackets upfit by Crown NA mount it out of the way, under the package tray. This is regardless of whether or not a sliding trunk tray is upfitted to the Charger. This is the “only” practical way to actually carry a full-size spare.
Surprise Keynote Speaker
One of the most obvious signs that Chrysler is committed to fleet sales was the unexpected appearance and address by Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Chrysler-FIAT worldwide. “Product is at the heart of what we do.” Proof of that comment is the introduction of 16 new or significantly restyled vehicles in the 19 months since their Chapter 11. That is 75 percent of their portfolio.
When FIAT and Chrysler merged, the automotive press, general public and financial world were all skeptical. “A lot of promises were made…and all of them were kept. All the targets were met.” For a recap of the impossible situation, go to www.hendonpub.com and search the article archives for “The Rest of the Story.” The happy ending is that Chrysler Group repaid in full and with interest all of the money borrowed from the U.S. and Canadian governments. It paid off these taxpayer loans six years ahead of schedule.
Chrysler Group has improved the perception of, and the reality of, the quality of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles. In terms of quality of design and quality of manufacturing, the 3.6L Pentastar V6 was selected as one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for the second consecutive year.
Chrysler Group is in their 26th consecutive month of sales gains. The residual value of Chrysler Group fleet vehicles continues to outpace AIG predictions. The Charger has one of the highest residuals of any sedan in its segment. The residuals going up drives the total cost of ownership down.
The order-to-delivery days are the best of any police automaker. Chrysler Group officials point to flexible manufacturing plants, global economies of scale, and shared platforms between Chrysler and FIAT for some of the turnaround success. For example, the new Dodge Dart compact-class sedan built in Belvidere, Ill. uses the Alfa Romeo “Giulietta” platform.
In terms of fuel economy, the basic gasoline internal combustion engine is getting a lot of attention. Evidence of this is the new Multi-Air valve technology, the dual-dry clutch transmission and widespread use of the ZF 8-speed transmission. However, like all automakers, Chrysler Group is engineering a number of alternate fuels and propulsion systems.
In a bluntness in keeping with his no-nonsense management style, Marchionne gave his insight into alternate fuel. “We cannot make the 2020-2025 CAFE fuel mileage standards with gasoline internal combustion engines.”
They just launched a 2013 Ram 2500 CNG, and announced an all-electric FIAT 500. A Ram 1500 Partial Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is in the works, as is a PHEV Chrysler Town & Country minivan. The Ram CNG is a bi-fuel with a 750-mile total range. It starts on gasoline, immediately changes to CNG until the tank is empty, and then automatically switches back to gas.
FIAT leads Europe in CNG technology. CNG is about $2 per gallon-equivalent less expensive than gasoline. While CNG infrastructure (filling stations) is still limited, CNG is abundant and a real energy dependency solution.