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Dodge Police Advisory Board: Spring 2008 Update

Written by PFM Staff

Forget that Chrysler dropped the Magnum. The Charger police car is alive and well and here to stay. In fact, it is growing in popularity. Introduced in 2006, more than 2,500 police Chargers were sold the first year. That number jumped to about 8,000 in 2007. Well into the 2008 model year, Dodge is on track to sell 10,000 police Chargers in its third year.

How have the new management personnel affected the police program? They are more dedicated than the previous management to government services, including police. Part of this dedication is a reorganization of the police side of the business. Pat Dougherty remains the director of fleet operations, and Roxie Thomas remains the senior manager of GSA/government sales. However, significant changes have taken place in both inside sales and field sales.

Lou Amicucci remains in the position of federal sales support. Gena Edwards, formerly the Midwest government account manager, is now in the new position of internal sales support. As demand for the Charger continues to grow, so does the need for information technology in the sales area, i.e., customer-friendly bid programs, police and dealer training.

Another new position will be the police technical manager. While Chrysler has not officially announced who this manager is, a little inside information tells us that this person is very familiar with the police platform and has a technical / engineering background. This change is extremely good news for the Charger police program. The police technical manager will also have a technical specialist assisting him and the upfitters. At the Spring 2008 meeting, showing support for the police program, the majority of these key players in the Dodge police car program were on-hand, including Roxie Thomas, Mike Quinn, George Bomanski, Lee Calkins and Dave Skiff.

Delivery Times

A year ago, the question was, “Where are my Charger police cars?” That was a fair question. In 2006, the order to delivery time was a disappointing 120 days. In 2007, it got worse, by rising to almost 140 days. Imagine how many police Chargers would have been sold with a delivery time half that long. This year we will find out. By November 2007, the order to delivery time dropped to 100 days, and as of February 2008, it was under 80 days.

With all the focus on delivery time, police fleet managers need to understand where some of the delays occur. The very worst delay can be caused by an order for a special paint, which requires a 50-car minimum order. If you ordered 25 cars with special paint, it may be months before the other 25 cars join your order.

Other, more subtle, yet more common, delays exist. The dealer may sit on the order for a week or two. If it misses a production window, a one-week delay in entering the order can cause a one-month delay in delivery. Hold the dealer accountable. The same thing can happen if you piggyback your order with another agency. It may be weeks before your combined order is entered.

Service

George Bomanski is the national service manager and the single point of contact for the Dodge police program. He wants to hear from the nation’s fleet managers on service issues at either (407) 257-1532 or gmb5@chrysler.com.

He works with seven other regional fleet service managers and 40 technical advisers across the country. He echoes what his counterparts with Ford Fleet and GM Fleet have emphasized. Do not get frustrated with your local dealer on unusual service issues! In many cases, they either do not know about the police-specific issues, or do not have the authority to resolve the matter. If in doubt, call the national service manager!

One of the first service issues was just a reminder that the brake concerns on earlier 2006 and 2007 police Charger’s have been resolved: brake pad wear, high-speed pulsation and noise. Chrysler announced as technical service bulletin (TSB) for the 2006 police Dodge Chargers and Magnums and 2007 police Dodge Charger and Magnums built before April 2007. The directive for TSB 05-001-07 is for new front brake pads. Note that this is a design change in disc pad compound and does not involve a different rotor design. The TSB includes replacement rotors, while the design of the rotor and caliper remain the same.

The brake pad kit in question is part number 05142559AA. The new pads, from the first generation Dodge Charger Daytona, extend pad life by at least 30%, greatly extend rotor life and virtually eliminated noise. Because these are high-performance, semi-metallic pads, they still produce some dust, but that is just a sign that you are using the correct pads!

As for rotors and routine maintenance, Dodge Fleet recommends—and the North Carolina Highway Patrol confirms— to use new rotors instead of trying to turn or machine the worn rotor. The NCHP turned Charger rotors, only to experience significant rotor thickness variation, warpage, within a month. If you must turn police Charger rotors, turn them with an on-the-car lathe with the rotors mounted on the vehicle. Few shops have the equipment to do this.

The good news with these extended life pads is there is no loss in braking effectiveness in patrol use. During the 2008 model year tests conducted by the Michigan State Police, the slight and expected increase in braking distance was documented. However, the Charger still had the best braking performance of the test. NCHP’s EVOC instructors also noted a slight decreasing in braking power with the new pads, but likewise, they indicated this was not an issue in actual patrol use.

The 2008 police Charger pads can be used on the 2006 and 2007 police Chargers. For 2009, Dodge is developing a slightly heavier rotor and calipers that are chamfered to make more running clearance between the pad and rotor. However, for all practical purposes, the brake pad and rotor wear issues on the early-model police Chargers have been completely (and successfully) resolved.

Upfitter and Modification Manual

The 2008 Charger uses a MUCH different electrical architecture than the 2006 and 2007 Charger. The new electrical system is reflected in a new and revised 2008 upfitter’s guide. This is available online at www.fleet.chrysler.com. Pay special attention to pages 2.7 and 2.8 in the new guide! These pages describe significant functional changes. The 2008 guide cannot be used for 2006-2007 models. The 2006-2007 guides CANNOT be used for the 2008 models.

Here’s an upfit trivia question. Does the police Charger have front passenger seat sensor? That is, will the passenger front airbag deploy if no one is in the seat? The answer is yes and no. For the 2007 and 2008 MY, yes, the airbag will deploy since these versions of the police Charger do not have a passenger seat sensor. No for the 2006 MY vehicle; they do have front passenger seat sensors.

A few police Chargers with the 5.7L V-8 engine experienced an intermittent idle undershoot at low rpm. If you are turning the steering wheel while driving at parking lot speeds, the vehicle may experience stalling, engine stumble or slower throttle response. The service software for the 2007 only was made available on 12-12-2007 and soon will also be available for 2006 models. A TSB is expected to be released in April 2008 covering both 2006 and 2007 Chargers. The fix requires a Star Scan or Star Mobile diagnostic tool to flash the engine controller to the most current software level. This operation is reimbursable within the provisions of the warranty.

Chargers built before March 2007 could experience a trans leak at the control harness connector. During the next preventative maintenance, check for any moisture or seepage. The solution is a new adapter assembly, part number 8021352AA.

16 Spark Plugs

The 5.7L HEMI® uses standard-grade spark plugs—all 16 of them. As a result, these standard plugs must be changed at the normal interval, which is just 30K miles! The fleet maintenance solution, of course, is to replace the standard plugs with premium, platinum plugs. The use of platinum plugs will extend the service interval by 100K miles. The 3.5L Charger already uses platinum plugs.

Other field issues currently being investigated include heavier duty motor mounts and newly designed outer tie rods to address noise concerns. A fix for each of these issues has been already been developed but is still being tested and is expected to be released by mid-2008.

Police Tech Training

Dodge has developed police-specific training for fleets, and this training is expected to start in late-2008. A pilot program has already been conducted. The training is geared around nine (min) to 12 (max) techs and will be conducted at one of Chrysler’s 24 training centers across the U.S. Departments with eight to 12 techs may have the training conducted on site provided that they can make Chargers available for the hands-on portion of the training. The classes last two days and begin with STARSCAN.

Computer-based training, called Fundamental Automotive Systems Training (FAST), is also available. Skill Level 1 begins with the basics of electricity including the use of a volt-ohm meter and reading wiring schematics. Skill Level 2 proceeds to engine electronics, including test circuits and engine diagnostics. Contact the Chrysler Academy at (888) 321-4321.

2008 and Beyond

Mike Quinn reviewed the major changes that took place on the 2008 police Charger. These include deleting the full off mode in the stability control system, Electronic Stability Program. The police Charger defaults to a police-specific but retail-like ESP. It can be manually switched to partial off, which allows more aggressive driving before ESP kicks in. However, ESP cannot be turned completely off, and even in partial off, some degree of traction control and all of ABS still remain.

Engine idle hours were made available on the 2008 police Charger, in addition to total operating hours. This feature CAN be flashed into 2006 and 2007 police Chargers. For agencies that want HEMI acceleration but not the HEMI’s 150-mph top speed, a 129-mph speed limiter is an option. For 2008, the trunk release circuits were revised to allow the button on the FOB to always open the trunk, regardless of whether the key is in the ignition.

For 2009, the 5.7L V-8 will be upgraded to the Eagle engine. Variable cam timing has been added to the HEMI to improve horsepower, torque AND gas mileage. A slight change in final drive ratio is also designed to improve gas mileage while keeping the overall acceleration the same. The suspension has been tweaked a bit for less harshness. More specifics on the 2009 Charger will be covered in future issues.

Dodge is currently investigating ballistic panels for the front doors of the Charger. Threat Level III-A panels, rated for handgun calibers are currently available through Canfield Equipment Service. Threat Level III panels, rated for most rifle calibers (except steel core and armor piercing) are being considered. The panels currently optional for the Ford CVPI are rated for most rifle calibers.

New for mid-2008 is the street appearance package for the Charger. The street appearance package includes 18-inch aluminum wheels; SXT badging on the trunk deck lid; a retail fascia that includes chrome-accented grille and functional fog lamps and power-heated, fold-away outside mirrors.

This is a real police package car on the inside and a retail SXT trim car on the outside. How much police car is this? Production of the street appearance package cars were held up slightly waiting on a special wiring harness. A special circuit was needed to run the fog lamps in the front fascia since police package Chargers don’t have fog lamps!

New for 2009

Dave Skiff, senior specialist, marketing requirements manager, discussed some of the standard equipment changes for the 2009 police Charger. In an effort to reduce build complexity and simplify the order and build process, low or high take rate items have been dropped or made standard, respectively. For 2009, all spotlights will be black. The chrome lights have been deleted. The front dome lamp has been made standard. For 2009, all body side moldings will be an option, and if the option is selected, all moldings will be placed in the trunk.

Also new for 2009 are two special paint colors, sheriff tan and medium brown. Both electric blue and midnight blue became special paint colors in mid-2008. All special paints still require a 50-unit minimum order. Dodge Fleet will try to combine orders from agencies across the country to meet this minimum. A lower minimum paint order system is being investigated, but this is not expected until mid-2009.

More police Charger ordering trivia: You probably know that 75% of the Chargers are powered by the 5.7L V-8. Did you know that the driver’s seat is a 50-50 split between power adjustable and manual? Did you know that the rear seat covering is a 50-50 split between those ordering cloth and those ordering vinyl?

Factory-Authorized Upfitting

Lee Calkins, project manager, Canfield Equipment Service, covered the factory-authorized upfitting options his company provides. This includes a wiring prep package; a slicktop package complete with LED lights, console and siren; and the patrol car package, including the prep package and lightbar. Canfield does about 5,000 upfits a year and has about a 14-day turnaround on a typical police upfit. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Canfield upfits vehicles for small departments as well as agencies as large as the Colorado State Patrol.

By far the most important item offered by Canfield is its full-size spare tire mounting system. Using the OE fastening and tie-down points, this simple system mounts the full-size tire flat under the package tray and increases the usable trunk space by 1.3 cubic feet. The company also offers a sliding trunk tray designed to work with the full-size tire and allows a place to mount communications gear.

For two-tone cars, Canfield offers a vinyl-based graphics wrap that costs about half the two-tone paint option. These die-cut, panel-matching vinyl wraps are available in a wide variety of colors and carry a 3-year warranty.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jul/Aug 2008

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