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Police Fleet Expo 2009

Written by Brad Brewer

The 2009 Police Fleet Expo was held in Milwaukee, WI, with nearly 400 fleet managers (sworn and civilian) from the nation in attendance, not counting all the staffers from the nearly 100 exhibitors. The PFE began with the Agency Dialogues—a chance for fleet managers of similar fleet sizes to raise questions and get answers from their peers. Here is a glimpse from the Medium/Large Police Departments, those with 50 vehicles or more, and the County Police and Sheriff’s Departments.

Chevrolet Impala

The session began with a review of the vehicle trouble report spreadsheet, which is a list of vehicle service issues sent in by PFE attendees prior to the conference. First up was the Chevrolet Impala and the issue of brakes. Several agencies reported premature wear of the front brakes, with many agencies seeing only10K-12K miles out of a set of brakes. Of significance was that some agencies were seeing even poorer performance, experiencing only 5K-6K miles before new brakes were required, including new rotors. According to a Chevrolet staffer, they have been working on the issue and are taking it very seriously. A new pad has been designed with a new material called HP1000 (GM part# 19207421).

Some agencies are seeing corrosion of the oil cooler and hoses on the 2005-2007 Impala. GM is aware this is a problem and will have a bulletin forthcoming shortly. A large number of agencies are finding issues with the cooling fan continuing to run after the Impala is shut off. Troubleshooting has pointed to the fan relay failing after burning out. GM is working on this issue and a relevant bulletin will be coming out shortly.

Part availability is an issue given the restructuring of the entire auto industry, including part suppliers, but GM says a repair kit is available. A couple of agencies who faced this issue on older Impalas have already obtained a complete replacement kit from GM which relocates the relay onto the upper radiator with a bracket. Contact your local rep for information on the upcoming fix.

The Impala had an assortment of less frequent issues such as mufflers splitting in agencies that have harsher winters—it seems accumulations of salt on the top of the mufflers are causing the muffler seam to split prematurely. Some agencies experienced steering pump issues where the steering fluids got so hot they boiled out like a volcano. GM is aware of this and a bulletin has been released.

A few agencies were interested to find out if anyone was having battery issues with Impalas. One agency reported frequent dead batteries even after using a power shut off device. There was some discussion that it’s all in the upfitting and the way the vehicles are wired. Each deployment would have to be independently reviewed. No specific battery issue was identified but many in the room suggested bigger amp hour rating and deep cycle replacement batteries to help with amp draw.

Also the Chevrolet Tahoe in both the 2WD Police Package and the 4x4 Special Service Package had few notable issues. Two agencies reported an engine issue with cam and lifters failing at 33,000 miles. GM is investigating.

Dodge Charger

With the Charger, brakes were also a topic of discussion. Chrysler has made great progress with the brake issue working with Raybestos and North Carolina Highway Patrol where they now say the issue is solved. The most significant Charger issue was radiator damage caused by the throwing of fan blades. Dodge has investigated and they have found there was a very short build period where a supplier provided an inferior fan to the factory. After mid-2007 the factory changed supplier and Dodge says they have identified the vehicles in question and are dealing with the issue.

Ford CVPI

The CVPI composes more than 70% of the police market. With the most vehicles in the field, this obviously leads to more issues than vehicles with less market share. The issue of paint failure was the most discussed topic in the session. Many bigger agencies reported paint bubbling, peeling and delaminating on different surface areas of the CVPI, not just one specific area. A common theme with this issue is heat. Some of the agencies in hotter climates are seeing paint failure on more of their vehicles and earlier in their fleet life than other agencies.

Ford’s Modified Vehicle Specialist Chris Keady addressed this issue at the Ford Product presentation. He says Ford has been working on the issue with the factory and the issue has been resolved on any vehicle produced after May 1, 2008. The primer and UV index in the paint has been changed, the paint thickness has been adjusted and there were factory paint nozzle changes made.

As is normal with any police fleet, the brakes and fuel pumps came up again as talking points with many agencies. The moderators reminded attendees that police cars have always had brake and fuel pump issues, but as engineers improve OEM parts, so do the aftermarket suppliers. Agencies with 2009 CVPIs are experiencing rear axle leaks at 5K-6K miles. Numerous other agencies stated this has been an issue for years, and several who had experienced this stated they found a fix by using synthetic axle fluids and new sealant around the rear axle housing.

Another common issue was that the 2005-2008 CVPIs were experiencing failures with a faulty cooling fan sensor. When the attendees were surveyed to see how widespread the issue was, almost everyone with CVPIs in their fleet admitted experiencing this issue. Most of these key issues were answered with updates and services bulletins.

Vehicle Manufacturer Dialogues

General Motors’ opening remarks were given by Dana Hammer, the new products and marketing manager for the law enforcement program. He got the message out that the “New GM” is stronger than ever. GM went into receivership but recovered in 40 days, which surprised many in the industry.

The 2WD Chevrolet Tahoe PPV is the only pursuit-rated SUV on the market. For 2010, the Tahoe has new thorax airbags and a few new vehicle colors. Hammer dispelled any rumors that the Tahoe is going away. “It is here until at least 2013-2014, if not longer,” he said.

Fuel economy was also something Hammer clarified. “The myth that a large SUV can’t match a sedan with fuel economy is gone because of our Tahoe,” he said. GM indicated the Tahoe is rated at 23 mpg with its 5.3L E85-capable V8. The Tahoe is also available as a non-pursuit 4x4. Complementing GM’s Law Enforcement offering is the Astro Van Special Duty, used most often for prisoner transport or forensic units due to its enormous cargo capacity. The all-new Sierra pickup special duty package is available for specialty units.

New for the 2010 Impala are thorax airbags and under-seat tubing to strengthen the vehicle’s ability to deal with side impact forces. GM’s Rich Gunther spoke about GM future projects and how the Volt platform has opened up a whole new direction for GM with endless electric power possibilities. He stressed that many still think the Volt is a single vehicle when it is actually a platform that more than just the Volt will be built from. Cadillac already has a soon-to-be-released version of the Volt called the Converge. He hinted this opens the door for this technology to find its way into mainstream law enforcement vehicles, but recommended the current Hybrid Tahoe not be used for law enforcement. The Volt will be available late 2010.

GM Impala and Tahoe service and warranty issues brought up in the earlier session were also addressed, with service bulletins being issued for each issue. Hammer answered the Impala brake issue with information about a new part (#19207421), which would be the fix for new composition brake pads. Document ID# 2282511 was an issue regarding problems with Tahoe rear hatch glass defroster tabs coming off. The Impala steering pump issues have a new replacement part (# 2197541) that solves that heat problem.

The topic of service intervals and the new GM Oil Life Monitoring System (OLMS) led to a discussion on oil change intervals. The GM delegation emphasized that the GM OLMS is a specific algorithm that determines oil change intervals based on driving habits and engine use. “There is no need to over-service. You only change the oil when the light comes on,” Gunther said. The OLMS has the ability to stretch service intervals enough to save some fleets significant dollars.

Also, no concerns with warranty coverage were brought up.

Ford Motor Company

Tony Gratson, manager of Ford Fleet, opened the session by stating Ford is the only one of the Big Three that did not take any federal government bailout money. The reason for this is the “FORD ONE” plan in which the entire company is committed to the reorganization headed by CEO Alan Mulally.

Capitalizing on Ford’s long success in the Police market, Gratson reminded the session delegates that the CVPI is a leader because it has significant attributes that officers prefer versus the other police offerings. Key to the CVPI’s success are the safety features, including the 75mph rear crash rating—no one else in the market provides this. The CVPI’s rear wheel drive, body-on-frame construction and V8 power continues to lead the market. Along with optional Fire Suppression systems and ballistic door panels, the CVPI holds the 5-Star crash rating that all Ford products hold.

New for 2010 is a new seat and headrest that meets the new FMVHSS requirements and thoracic airbags in the seat side bolsters. The ballistic door panels will be an improved version with Level III threat capability. If factory-authorized upfitting is desired, the CVPI offers several packages with new LED corner lights that replace legacy strobes for 2010. The CVPI continues to be E85 compliant, like almost all the 2010 offerings. Job one for the 2010 MY is set for August 26, 2009. Gratson advised everyone that even though the current CVPI is scheduled for final production in August 2011, the CVPI continues to improve.

Just like the other two manufacturers, Gratson said Ford was also on its way to developing the next generation Police Interceptor in conjunction with its Ford Police Advisory Board. The new Police Interceptor will be a vehicle that is purpose built from the ground up for Law Enforcement. Ford is suggesting it will have more than just a single new Police option in the future but no timelines were mentioned.

Ford’s Keady spoke about the current issues identified in the earlier sessions. Keady also touched on the issue regarding the CVPI trouble report survey that was released before the Police Fleet Expo. In approximately 75% of the surveys the reporting agency admitted it had never contacted Ford Fleet about the issue. Keady stressed the need to communicate issues. Agencies should call (800) 343-5338 with any comments or problems.

Lisa Teed, Ford’s Marketing Manager, spoke about new product offerings from Ford with a specific focus on the Ford Hybrid offerings for law enforcement, specifically the 2010 Fusion. Teed said law enforcement is using non-conventional police vehicles in administrative and detective positions where a heavy-duty pursuit rating isn’t required.

At one time, aftermarket didn’t exist for any of these vehicles, but at the 2009 Police Fleet Expo it was clear that aftermarket equipment suppliers have increased their offerings. The Hybrid Fusion is also available as agencies get more pressure to deploy alternative fuel vehicles in an effort to “Go Green.”

Carbon footprints were something fleet managers didn’t have to think about 10 years ago, but today many have no choice. The 2010 Fusion gets the best mileage of any mid-size hybrid sedan in America at 41 mpg. The Escape Hybrid provides outstanding fuel economy with SUV capability. It offers better fuel economy and fewer pollutants than a conventional SUV, with the daily inconvenience of having to recharge.

The Escape Hybrid makes sense for parking enforcement, security patrol and other constant start-stop duties that don’t require a pursuit-rated vehicle. Ford wrapped up their presentation with a review of the Special Service and Fleet Service vehicles like the Explorer, Expedition and F150.

Chrysler Corp.

Chrysler’s Senior Government Sales Manager Mitch Mitchell assured the audience that Chrysler is not going away and that it is fully committed to the law enforcement market. “We’re here, and we’re here to stay!” he said. Mitchell let everyone know that restructuring was, and still is, painful but had to be done. Now Chrysler is in a strong alliance with Italy’s Fiat Automobiles SpA.
 
The 2010 Dodge Charger is essentially a carryover from 2009, with a new center console and bin available for unmarked administrative cars. Performance remains the focus of the Charger, which is available with either a 3.5L V6 or 5.7L HEMI® V8. Importantly, the Chrysler warranty has been improved to match Ford and GM’s. Their three-year/36K mile warranty for police vehicles has been upgraded to five-year/100K miles.

Mitchell said Chrysler is pleased with the residuals from the first generation of police Chargers being decommissioned for resale. Just like the other two, Chrysler is getting together with their Police Advisory Board and focusing on the next generation Charger. No timelines or sneak previews were announced.

Chrysler’s George Bomanski spoke on service issues, covering most of the issues brought up at the previous sessions. The 2006-2007 Charger fan blades and radiator damage were addressed by revealing that the problem had been rectified in 2008 when a new supplier was brought in. The complaints of inoperative wig wag headlights on the Police Taxi Interface Module (PTIM) were met with news that a new supplier was also the solution to that problem. A field fix has been offered by flashing the module, which is available now.

The Charger had several complaints regarding premature front suspension wear and Chrysler solved the issue with parts from a new supplier brought in since 2008MY. Chrysler is watching this closely to determine a specific failure point or cause. Concerns regarding transmission shifting delays from drive to reverse were reported, and a new controller calibration for faster engagement is coming shortly. A field flash for older Chargers will be offered. Issues with the transmission not coming out of park were reported and a field flash of the ESM controller will be forthcoming.

The issue of the new transmission not having dipsticks came up, but Chrysler doesn’t recommend them because the tube and dipstick cannot be left in the engine compartment because the dipstick is too tall. However, if an agency wants to purchase these parts, they are available from Chrysler. The tube will have to be covered with the rubber plug and Chrysler recommends buying a single dipstick for checking all levels.

Charger vibration at high speeds had also been reported with specific attention on the drive-shaft rear axle assembly flange bolts. Chrysler recommends a retorque to 50 foot-pounds and using Loctite, but another field fix is coming. Chrysler wanted to update the audience on their service software and diagnostic tools: the StarScan will be phased out and the best option is still the StarMobile handheld, which will work with Chrysler’s WiTech diagnostic software.

This spring the states west of the Rockies will get their very own conference, the Police Fleet Expo-West. Make plans now for mid-May 2010 and check out our Web site for more details. Next fall, the Police Fleet Expo will be in St. Louis. Plan now to attend one or the other!

Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 22-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He sits on the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at Law Enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at Sgt1411@Gmail.com. Photos courtesy of Buzz Meade.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2009

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