Now in its 38th year, the U.K.’s National Association of Police Fleet Managers (NAPFM) conference held at Peterborough featured a few educational sessions and a huge display of police-oriented vehicles. These include small sedans, large sedans, crossovers / SUVs, estates (station wagons), minivans, transport vans and armored vehicles. There is something for everyone – including solutions to problems – for the United Kingdom’s 999 (emergency services) fleet managers.
The U.K.’s numerous Police Authorities and HM Government’s Home Office continue their relentless money saving mission. Those in admin functions have seen their budgets cut to the bone, and now forces are having to concentrate on joined up strategic thinking, integrating functions like buying / equipping police fleets by region.
NAPFM event manager Mike Cripps noted that with challenges come new opportunities. And that means a much closer working relationship between all three 999 services not only to save money – but also improve frontline performance.
This saw members of the national Strategic Ambulance Fleet group hold its fleet and procurement seminar at this year’s event, an example of partnership working, which augurs well for the future. And while this year’s show attracted another record number of exhibitors – including a few interesting new names from abroad, notably China – it also highlighted the legendary ‘can do’ attitude from many on the fleet frontline.
The pressure to run cleaner, greener and more cost effective fleets (25 percent cutbacks) is having an inevitable affect on all areas of fleet management. It also means the ‘critical mass’ that’s been building slowly over the last few years is now gaining momentum as an increasing number of manufacturers devote more research and development budgets to finding practical workaday solutions to ensure petrol and diesel cars tick all the environmental and efficiency boxes.
Manufacturers and buyers alike agree there seems to be a distant light at the end of the economic tunnel. That said, a number of manufacturers have been investing heavily in their product range – especially Hyundai and Peugeot – and seem to be more than up to the challenges ahead.
That’s seen the work of an increasing number of them coming to fruition and available now is a new generation of hybrids, including diesel hybrids while plug-in electric cars and groundbreaking developments with traditional petrol and diesel power are also surprising some critics. New national vehicle agreements mean there is a much leaner supply line for customers and manufacturers leading to sizeable savings running into millions of dollars.
BMW took pride of place in the atrium where numerous cars made for an impressive display. Highlighting its stand was a BMW 5-Series mid-range tourer featuring upfitted for police work during production for U.K. forces. Its concept ‘Interceptor’ BMW 3-Series has served at Avon and Somerset, while its X series cars are now in frontline roles in a variety of police, fire and paramedic roles. BMW plays a very important part now in many metropolitan forces. Its 5-Series diesel models the default choice for ARV and road policing roles at the Olympics, for example.
A new name for the U.K. market is DFSK. Its new Loadhopper minivan comes in a variety of guises with gasoline and electric power. The Farr variety of quads are a very reasonably priced alternative to Japanese rivals.
Ford had another large stand. They may be losing ground in some markets where the Focus is seeing keen competition from Vauxhall and Hyundai. This is soon to change with Ford unveiling a 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, making it ‘king of the hill.’
Its most interesting models are in a niche market where the C Max and Galaxy from Ford SVP have proved very popular in a variety of frontline policing duties and as covert vehicles. The evergreen Transit and Tourneo models were also on show. The former will soon be replaced by an all new model to be built aboard as Ford leaves Southampton after many years.
The Honda stand took a step back in time with an original hybrid, its quirky two door Insight on show. This was the original car the Wiltshire force trialed and then purchased back in 2001 as the company pioneered hybrids in the U.K. The midsized CRV is still a popular choice with paramedic fleets while a small number of forces use Hondas in covert roles.
With impressive growth in the last five years, it is little wonder Hyundai has continued to earn its stripes with an increasing number of police forces. Proof positive of how it is gaining a reputation as a hard working member of many fleets is the order by forces like Lancashire and Merseyside in North England for the latest i30 range in hatch and estate form for a variety of roles.
This follows its success in the London Met where it has beaten off cars like the respected Astra. Hyundai — part of the same group as Kia — has been allowed to take the spotlight in the 999 market and had a good array of cars and soft roaders at the event.
The rise of Jaguar has been nothing short of spectacular since enterprising Indian businessman Ratan Tata bought Britain’s premier luxury car manufacturer from Ford. But it’s not faring as well as expected in the tough conditions prevalent now – although big things are expected of its new XF 2.2-D (diesel) with the PSA (French) sourced diesel engine. On display was a 3.0 XF-D (diesel) and armored XJ Long Wheel Base (LWB).
The loss of the baby Jag, its X type will be remedied by 2015 as a new model is prepped to take on rivals BMW, Audi and Mercedes in the lucrative mid-range premium saloon market. ‘Protection without compromise’ was the no-nonsense claim of its specialist-armored vehicle brochure with the firm hoping to build on small but significant sales with its armored XJ range.
Along with Jaguar, Land Rover has also seen a resurgence in the last two years with product led recovery very much a reason for its growth. The new Discovery has taken the mantle of the bigger and more expensive Range Rover, while the Defender – soon to be replaced in a groundbreaking move by Land Rover — is still flying the flag for the U.K. in a multiplicity of frontline applications worldwide.
Its Freelander 2 eD4 has been reinvented for the modern world too, its ‘stop-start’ diesel engines now available, which make them better suited for urban policing roles saving up to 20 percent in fuel costs. The Discovery 4 and Range Rover Sport add to its current 999 portfolio.
Mercedes Benz has re-entered the U.K. police market with a selection of C and E class models aimed for covert road policing roles. Its decision to pull out of the market a few years ago when the German parent company refused to subsidize its prices any longer was lamented by many.
MB make some of the most reliable police cars in the world and with fleets having to keep cars longer, the time is right for investing in its models, it claims. Showcased at this year event was its electric Vito, while a 224PS Vito 122 looks like a brilliant addition to any fleet as an ARV.
Mitsubishi is by far the leading supplier of Japanese built vehicles for 999 fleets in the U.K., period. Lexus, Mazda, Suzuki and Toyota all now eschew police sales and the firms going from strength to strength with vehicles like the Outlander and much ‘cleaner’ 2012 Shogun, which is still a popular choice with the Met and for Highway’s Agency Traffic officers.
There have been few takers, though, for its diminutive electric iMiEV – co-developed with the French PSA group as the Peugeot iON. Mitsubishi’s trump card is its one-stop shop in Cirencester, Gloucester County where bespoke vehicle solutions can be talked through for a multiplicity of applications for each vehicles in its car and off-road range.
Peugeot had a lot to live up to in 2011 with its car range featuring exciting green developments. Taking pride of place was its 3008Hybrid4, its first venture into the hybrid market with a diesel powered twist. It is unique in the marketplace and reflects Peugeot’s innovative thinking for the 999 market. Another interesting range on show was its 308 GPPV general-purpose patrol vehicles with both the hatch and estate versions offered with a range of efficient and economical HDi engines.
A very brief mention for Proton – even though they weren’t there for the first time in their history. That’s because behind the scenes there’s a lot going on with new models, new engines, and a new look to the company’s cars – the new Exora will be out soon, a family MPV, which would prove ideal for light policing duties as a capacious but well priced MPV.
A lifetime warranty for Vauxhall cars was the big talking point of the 2010 event. Big news this year was its range of electric cars like the new Ampera, the company’s first extended range vehicle, which has been extensively trialed in the U.K., Europe and the U.S. On show alongside its good-looking car range were two new products – the Movano PSU and Combo with prisoner ‘cell.’
VAG – better known through its Audi, SEAT, and Skoda and VW brands – put on another ‘show of force’ this year. It’s been a good year for each of the four brands; Audi’s still setting the pace thanks to its two primary USP’s – the legendary Quattro drivetrain and array of fast but frugal diesel engines which are available in its A6 and Q7 ranges.
SEAT showed off a revised Exeo and new Alhambra, while Skoda had an array of its 2012 range, which will soon be joined by the innovative CitiGo model. The firm has now established itself as one of the leading players in the 999 market with its Octavia, Superb and Yeti models especially popular in a multiplicity of roles on the 999 frontline. VW is going from strength to strength with its latest models and displayed a selection of Golf and Passat models.
Volvo is now under new Chinese ownership – not that you would notice. It’s been in the 999 market now for over 40 years and its latest V70 – bigger, more comfortable and more dynamic while just as safe – is still proving popular in a number of police and paramedic applications.
Roger Blaxall is a former police press 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.