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AutoTruck... A New Name in Patrol Vehicle Upfitting

Written by Yesenia Salcedo

The AutoTruck Group is a body company that has been serving the commercial truck needs since 1918. They have recently made a name for themselves in the police fleet upfitting business. In less than three years, AutoTruck has not only introduced itself to the law enforcement market, but acquired big business with the Chicago Police Department (CPD). In the first two years they have upfit 1,000 Chicago police vehicles.

Most of AutoTruck’s law enforcement upfitting comes from CPD, mainly upfitting the city’s unmarked and detective vehicles, as well as some marked and SORT vehicles. However, upfitting police vehicles only makes up about 5 percent of AutoTruck’s overall work.

AutoTruck has eight facilities total, seven in the U.S and one in Canada. Its Bartlett, Ill., facility is its largest, with 102,000 square feet under roof, making it large compared to other upfitters. The Bartlett facility has 28 production bays and each bay can accommodate up to four vehicles. What sets AutoTruck apart from other upfitters is that it can handle large volume orders on a timely basis to meet customers’ deadlines.

AutoTruck tested the police vehicle market with smaller police departments in Chicagoland. With the demand from all departments to get the vehicles upfitted quickly, they realized they had more than the necessary equipment and space to meet the high quantity and quality demands of even bigger police departments. That’s when they bid for upfitting work for CPD – first 600 Tahoes, then 200 Ford CVPIs.

AutoTruck is equipped to handle any law enforcement upfitting needs, including lightbars, prisoner partitions, push bumpers, cameras, riffle locks, docking stations, GPS, window screens, spotlights, decal installation and paint work, and installation (but not programming) of radios. The company can provide emergency equipment from virtually any manufacturer. AutoTruck also does custom upfitting.

“CPD SORT vehicles have completely client-designed, custom-designed, pull-out storage units in the back, as well as custom running boards and grab handles,” McGowen said. “The key message is we’ll build whatever the customer wants.” He said when they take a new client, they have an initial meeting to discuss what the customer wants. Then there are meetings during the build and a meeting before the first vehicle is delivered to make sure they have completed the upfit to the expectations of the customer.

AutoTruck is well under way in getting its name out. In mid-2011, AutoTruck held its second open house, which enjoyed a great turnout of police upfitting equipment suppliers and manufacturers. Also on display were the latest vehicles from Chevrolet, Chrysler and Ford: the Chevrolet Caprice, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Sedan Police Interceptor, Ford Utility Police Interceptor and Dodge Charger.

Manufacturers such as Setina, Havis, Tufloc and Vinyl Graphics displayed their products at the open house. Other companies, such as Code 3, Federal Signal, Whelen, SoundOff Signal, ProGard and Coban brought upfitted cars showing off their equipment already installed. Yes, another AutoTruck open house is being planned as they continue to gain credibility in the police upfitting market.

Yesenia Salcedo is a Chicago-based writer and the former Managing Editor of LAW and ORDER, Police Fleet Manager and Tactical Response Magazines. She can be reached at senny_x@yahoo.com.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2012

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