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NAPFM: U.K.'s National Association of Police Fleet Managers

Written by Roger Blaxall

The expression, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” summarizes the many challenges lying ahead for U.K. emergency services fleet managers in light of the drastic cuts on their budgets that will shape the way future 999 fleets are run. (999 is the U.K. equivalent to 911 in the U.S.)

It is a given that the 25 percent cutbacks will have an inevitable effect on all areas of fl eet management. It will be interesting to see how the resilience, ingenuity and nascent “thinking outside the box” mentality are tested as fleet managers ensure that front line services are not affected too much.

The National Association of Police Fleet Managers (NAPFM) annual conference and exhibition is now at its third new venue in 10 years. The conference outgrew Devizes and Wiltshire County. The event’s new home—the East of England Showground near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire County—was praised by many as much more compact and easy to reach, and it has excellent facilities.

U.K. fleet managers are now under tremendous pressure to run greener, meaner and more cost effective fleets—all with reduced budgets. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Coming soon is a new generation of hybrids, including diesel hybrids, plug-in electric cars and exciting developments with traditional petrol (gasoline) and diesel power.

All this was against a backdrop of the new National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) vehicle agreements announced in late 2010. Antiquated arrangements with a multiplicity of manufacturers have been slimmed down in a groundbreaking “approved vehicle list.” This agreement will save the Police Service millions and ensure a much leaner supply line for customers and manufacturers.

BMW

BMW took pride of place in the atrium where their cars and bikes made for an impressive display. The first police vehicle offering 5-Series was on display, while the headline grabber was a concept Interceptor 3 Series now doing the rounds as a competitor to the Mitsubishi Evo X. A selection of ‘X’ models including the new 1, 3 and 5 were also on display, some in armored specifi cation.

The company’s Mini brand is now as well known as the Brit designed original that was launched back in 1959. BMW’s version is being touted as ideal transportation for softer police roles including transport for Community Support Offi cers.

Ford

Ford has made large strides with its product range in the last two years. Its Fiesta is a consistent best seller. A new Focus launched in mid March, taking the fight back to GM’s U.K. arm Vauxhall with its Astra series and rivals from Volkswagen with its Golf and Korean newcomers like Hyundai. Meanwhile, its updated Mondeo has received a raft of improvements with leaner, cleaner and greener petrol and diesel engines. The 2010 vehicle highlights on display were the turnkey Fiesta and Focus and a concept “one box” Mondeo for both police and paramedic fleet use.

Honda

The Honda stand showcased the latest models from its impressive car range. The midsized CRV is still a popular choice with paramedic fleets while its new hybrid/electric sports car is not just a flight of fancy; watch this space for how Honda will develop the electric car over the next few years. Hondas are popular with covert use in a variety of roles. U.K. criminals can still be taken aback by officers in a Pacific Rim badged police car, although many of its vehicles are now built in England.

Hyundai

From 0–400 in the last five years! It’s an impressive track record, and Hyundai has earned its stripes with numerous police fleets thanks to the hard work of Gavin Thompson and his team. Thompson, ex-police and government sales manager for the defunct MG Rover group has spearheaded Hyundai’s sales to 999 fl eets since late 2005.

The mainstay of police sales has been the i30 series in comfort diesel spec, which comes as a hatch or good looking estate. The Met will be a new customer for the car, which is a midsized rival to the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf. Hyundai is part of the same group as Kia and markets almost identical cars in the U.K. However, the company has set the pace in the U.K.’s 999 markets and is looking for even more sales thanks to its success in the recent NPIA agreement.

Jaguar

The rise of Jaguar has been nothing short of spectacular since enterprising Indian businessman Ratan Tata’s group bought Britain’s premier luxury car manufacturer from Ford three years ago. No less than seven XF Diesels are now on duty with the Central Motorway Police Group based in Birmingham in the English Midlands. Offi cers maxed out the top speed of an XF Diesel during tests at a race with an incredible 177 mph.

Jaguar’s new XJ Diesel—touted for senior offi cers only—is priced from around $120,000. It will be a brave police authority who signs on that dotted line, but seeing the display model at the show, you can understand the XJ’s allure.

Land Rover

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 is still flying the flag for the U.K. in a multiplicity of front line applications worldwide. The British car rescue organization the Automobile Association (AA) has ordered another six for specialized duties when disaster strikes.

Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi is now the leading supplier of Japanese built vehicles for 999 fl eets in the U.K. With Lexus, Mazda, Suzuki and Toyota all absent from this year’s show, the firm can only go from strength to strength with vehicles like the Outlander and the much cleaner 2011 Shogun. Meanwhile, its diminutive iMiEV—co-developed with the French PSA group for its Peugeot brand—shows how quickly electric cars are developing for mainstream policing in city centre roles.

Nissan

No big news from Nissan for 2010 as it’s been concentrating its efforts on renewing its passenger car range. It was left to its new NV 200 (winner of the International Van of the Year contest) to fly the flag along with a revised Qashqai, one of the company’s most successful crossovers with more than 1 million made for markets worldwide.

Peugeot

Peugeot had a lot to live up to in 2010. After winning the prestigious Stand of the Year for its display at Cheltenham in 2009, the team fared well, reflecting the staggering variety of products that bear the Peugeot name—everything from pedal cycles to light commercial vehicles. It celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2010, but in the last five years it’s been making big strides in the police and ambulance markets.

Proton

That Proton continues to exhibit at the event is testament to the firm’s decision to maintain a profile—albeit low—in the 999 market where it’s best known for LPG powered cars. It’s kept faith with this alternative fuel that’s now a third of the price of regular gasoline, at approximately 70 p per U.K. liter. And that price is capped for the next three years to give fleet managers fuel for thought. Humberside Police has recently ordered another 40 Impian saloon LPG models for its fl eet.

Subaru

Subaru has a new weapon in its 999 armory. The Impreza STi now comes as a good looking option for high-profile road policing roles. Importers International Motors has suffered like other manufacturers of specialized, high performance models during the last few years, but its cars always receive deserved praise from offi cers who appreciate the breadth of abilities the cars offer for high-performance police roles.

Vauxhall

A lifetime warranty for its cars might be good news for retail customers—but how will it work in the tough 999 markets? That’s one question that will only be answered in the next few years. True to its word, Vauxhall is offering that generous warranty on all emergency service vehicles. On display were the latest Astra Estate (made in the U.K. in Cheshire County), the award-winning Insignia Tourer, and a selection of Corsas, its smallest car in the U.K.

Volkswagen

Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG), better known through its Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW brands, put on another “show of force” at the event with one of the largest stands. It’s been good news for all four parts of the company. Audi is setting the pace thanks to two of its many police offerings: the legendary Quattro drive train and array of fast but frugal diesel engines that are available in its A4, A6 and Q7 models. SEAT had little new on offer, while Skoda proudly displayed the new Superb Tourer series. VW reported healthy interest in cars like the Golf Plus and its new contender in the pickup market, the Mexican sourced Amarok.

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 formagazines in the U.S. and Europe. All photos courtesy of Andy Laithwaite.

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2011

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