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Ford Fleet Preview and Police Advisory Board

The midyear Ford Police Advisory Board (PAB) meeting was held in conjunction with Ford’s Fleet Preview. This gave PAB members a chance to look at the 2007 Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Mazda, Volvo, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover vehicles. Of course, most police fleet managers don’t buy many of Ford’s Premier Auto Group vehicles. However, many buy more than just four-door sedans. The Fleet Preview was a chance to see the latest trucks, vans and SUVs used in law enforcement and other government services.

Ford’s top management was on hand both to give presentations and to talk face to face with hundreds of fleet buyers. Significantly, Mark Fields, executive vice president and president of the Americas, and Cisco Codina, group vice president of North America marketing, sales and service, were available and accessible for PAB members to express how important the Ford CVPI is to law enforcement.

Hal Feder, director of North America Fleet, Lease and Remarketing Operations (NAFLRO), was the host of the event and was also extremely accessible to all of the attendees. About 27% of Ford’s U.S. volume is fleet sales. This aspect of business alone puts it in the top 150 American businesses.

Speaking of insight from top management at Ford, did you know that successful cars accurately reflect the culture of their country of origin? UK-born Peter Horbury, Ford’s new director of design, thinks so, and presented strong video evidence to support his thinking. German cars…French cars…Japanese cars…Swedish cars… English cars… American cars…the best ones reflect the culture and the heritage of the homeland. And THAT is why Ford’s new and recent cars and trucks have the bold, chrome front ends they do. Americans are bold. Americans are chrome.

It all started in 2003 with the Ford 427 Concept Car. That look, and the overwhelming public acceptance, changed the look of Ford vehicles for the decade. The Five Hundred missed the style statement, in production the same time as the Ford 427 Concept. However, the Fusion was at the design stage where it could be quickly given the bold, chrome American look. Expect the Five Hundred to get this look in its 2008 refreshening.

New for the CVPI

Good news on the E85 front. E85 capability will be standard on the CVPI beginning in 2008. There will not be an optional gasoline-only engine. The retail Crown Victoria is already available with an E85-capable version of the 4.6L engine, but the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor is not. The E85-capable engine can run on any mix of gasoline, gasohol (E10) and ethanol (E85) fuels. The E85-capable CVPI will be available in all 50 states.

How will vehicle performance be affected by the E85 powertrain? The CVPI with E85 will have the same acceleration and top speed as the CVPI running on gasoline. How will the fuel mileage compare? The CVPI with E85 may get 20% to 30% percent fewer miles per gallon than the same car on gasoline. The E85 fuel has less energy per unit volume, so the decreased fuel economy is not a function of the vehicle but rather of the fuel.

Will the onboard, optional fire suppression system (FSS) be compatible with alcohol-based E85 fuel? The FSS performance is expected to be the same, as standard firefighting techniques are the same, but Ford has scheduled a test of the FSS with E85 to make sure.

For the 2008 model year, Ford will extend the oil change intervals on standard service gasoline and E85 vehicles from 5,000 miles to 7,500 miles. The oil change interval for severe duty vehicles (police cars) is going from 3,000 miles to 5,000 miles. This change does not affect diesel-powered vehicles. This extended change interval follows General Motor’s recent Oil Life System feature, which also doubles or triples the intervals.

Ford Fleet also emphasized the need to frequently check the oil level. With “normal” oil consumption as high as one quart in 1,500 miles during severe service, the police engine may almost run completely out of oil before the 5,000 mile change interval.

Continued discussions were held on the 2009 Ford CVPI. The PAB members emphasized “more speed” from the CVPI, both quicker acceleration to 100 mph and a higher top speed. Like many cops, Ford Fleet ALSO wants a full one-second improvement in zero to 60 mph times and a top speed of 140 mph from the CVPI.

Ford Fleet has researched a few options. Some have been taken off the table. Some are being reconsidered. Additional options are being considered. Expect help from Jack Roush Racing, the folks that brought us the Mercury Marauder.

In the works is a 4-inch diameter aluminum driveshaft. That step alone will allow the top speed limiter to be bumped up. The top speed on the 3.55-geared CVPI will now be increased from 119 mph to 129 mph. The top speed on the 3.27-geared CVPI will be bumped from 129 mph to 133 mph, which is essentially its true, unregulated top speed.

A voluntary agreement by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers will require side (thorax) airbags on sedans by 2009. After unanimous approval by the PAB, Ford’s intent was to make these standard equipment on the 2008 CVPI, raising the base price of the car by about $120. However, supplier constraints will not allow them to become standard until the 2009 model year. Side-curtain (roof-rail) airbags, mandatory on 2011 sedans, is the next hurdle. As currently designed, these will absolutely interfere with the full prisoner partitions. Stay tuned.

Ford Fleet is redesigning the CVPI seats for more comfort during police use. They have taken the opportunity caused by pending federal regulations on headrest designs (FMVSS 202A) to add cut outs in the foam seat cushion for the gun muzzle and relief in the seat back for the duty belt itself. In addition, a cutout will allow the seat-belt buckle to be located outside of the seat cushion and not restrained by it.

The back lumbar support is also being redesigned. Instead of support pressure coming from a single point, the lumbar pressure will now be broader in back contact, more of a wrap-around. The seat back side bolsters above the gun belt area are being increased. The seat cushion and seat back foam is going back to a firmer, higher density foam, similar to the 2005 CVPI. Finally, the seat cushion is getting higher rate springs and the flex mat beefed up. It will still retain the seat back stab-proof plate.

New Police Vehicles

Ford Fleet is greatly adding to the vehicles under the “police” umbrella. In addition to the CVPI, Explorer and Expedition are the stretched Expedition EL, the Escape and Escape Hybrid and a wide variety of E-series prisoner transport vans.

Also on the radar are special service packages for the Five Hundred and either the F-150 or the F-250 pickup. The Escape Hybrid will be tested at the Michigan State Police tests. So will the F-250 Crew Cab. New for 2007, the F-150 with the 3-valve 5.4L V-8 will be E85 capable, i.e., it will join the growing ranks of Ford’s Flex Fuel Vehicles, FFV.

A police-oriented, upfitter-oriented modifier’s guide is already available for the Escape and in the works for the Expedition. A modifier’s guide is being discussed for the Explorer.

News on a special service vehicle package for the F-150 pickup is mixed. Jim Michon, Ford’s Truck marketing manager, told the PAB that F-150 Super Crew (four-door) capacity is at its absolute maximum. Estimated sales to police, fire, forest, parks, utility, oil field uses aside, there is no incremental sales if the production of the vehicles is at its max.

Plan B, however, is the same kind of police options either on the F-150 Super Cab (twin half doors) or on the F-250 Super Crew (four-door). The specs are the same: 5.4L V-8, 4x2 and 4x4, cloth seats, console delete, 200-amp alternator, heavy duty suspension, towing package, and skid plates. We will know more in the November timeframe. Such a truck, probably the F-250 Super Duty Super Crew, will run at the Michigan State Police tests in September.

Explorer Feedback Requested

Ford Fleet is interested in “wish list” feedback from 2006 Explorer users. Short of a pursuit-capable rating, because that is not in the plans, what do you want in the special service package Explorer? Tell your regional government account manager or one of the PAB members, including Ed Sanow, editorial director of Police Fleet Manager

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Two areas of the most interest exist. First, the floor shifter. Are the excellent aftermarket consoles from Jotto Desk and Havis-Shields working for you? They replace the retail console with a more police gear-friendly console and work around the floor shifter pretty well. Are these allowing the upfit you need? Or does the gear selector really need to move to the steering column or dash?

Second, the alternator. With widespread adoption of low amp draw LED lights, is the current 130-amp alternator keeping up? Special service vehicles may be upfitted with slightly less electrical gear than a police package sedan. The 200-amp alternator on the Ford CVPI is nice, but do you NEED it?

Service Issues

The good news is that all Ford CVPI warranty claims are trending down. That means Ford officials have indeed fixed the things that police departments have brought to their attention. Even the tough and frustrating problems are going away.

Two of the most difficult issues are seemingly resolved: steel wheels (recall 04M05) and the transmission overdrive band failure (TSB 04-16-03). The transition from the 16-inch full-face flush steel wheels to the drop-center, recessed steel wheels made the crack wheel problem disappear. By the way, the seven-window, 16-inch steel wheels (2003) and the 12-window, 16-inch steel wheels (2004, 2005) are completely interchangeable.

After changes and technical service bulletins almost every year to the 4R70W transmission, the fix has been made. Data from both extended service plans and basic powertrain warranties indicate the problems ended with the 2005 models. Just to be sure, an improved overdrive band material will be used on the 2007 CVPI.

PAB members report that the installation of the in-line trans filter makes a big difference in reducing trans failures. Some agencies install these during their initial upfit. Ford is evaluating this as an OEM operation, i.e., standard on the Police Interceptor package.

Ghosts in the Machine

A few genuine service ghosts are being chased. First, coil packs. The “if-in-doubt” replacement of coil packs is not a good maintenance diagnosis. A full two-thirds of the coil packs returned to Ford for evaluation are GOOD.

The other ghost has been with us for more than 75 years. And the more electrical gear we mount in the car, the more we see it. Like it or not, heater core leaks are caused by electrolysis. That means the coolant is picking up an electrical charge, period. The solution is to properly ground all electrical devices. See TSB 01-15-06.

One thorny service problem still exists...fuel pump failures. The primary cause seems to be fuel contamination. Specifically, the use of poor grade fuel with high sulfate levels. As the fuel in the tank gets hot, the sulfates react with the copper wiring in the electric fuel pump. The result is a gel-like substance that may restrict the fuel pickup tube’s sock filter. A new design of fuel pump, with carbon commutators instead of copper, is showing promise. Ford Fleet also recommends that the vehicle has the latest PCM calibration and the latest (psi) level of fuel pump.

Ford announced a big across-the-board improvement in warranty. It extended the standard powertrain warranty from a 3-year/36K-mile warranty to 5-year/60K-mile warranty for Ford and Mercury vehicles. The bumper-to-bumper warranty remains unchanged. Of course, this has an impact on extended service plan programs. See your regional government account manager. The improved warranty goes into effect on all 2007 models and some 2006 models. It is retroactive on 2007 models already purchased.

Snow Tires

Two of the nation’s most fleet-influential police departments, the Michigan State Police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff, have tested severe snow-rated tires under dry and cool (MSP) and blistering hot (LASD) conditions. These tires have “passed” the evaluation criteria established by the respective agencies.

The NIJ has tested similar severe snow-rated police-size tires under the extremes of snow and ice conditions. It found the winter performance of these Snowflake-on-the-Mountain-embossed tires to clearly exceed that of high performance, all-season radials.

With all of that noted, Ford Fleet is clear on its formal position about snow tires. Ford Fleet has no recommendation whatsoever about snow tires. This is no different than any time since 1950 when Ford pioneered the police package. The only tire that passes all of its criteria for the CVPI is the Goodyear Eagle RS-A All-Season tire. Officials know, of course, that many Midwestern and northern police departments use snow tires in the winter. They do, however, have an official position on that practice.

Echoing the NIJ findings on snow tires, IF you use snow tires on the CVPI, use them in sets of FOUR. The traction differences under varying road conditions between severe snow and all-season tires is too great to have one kind on one end of the car and the other kind on the other. In fact, four all-season tires is a better winter setup that two severe snows and two all-seasons.

Ride & Drive

The Ride & Drive at the Fleet Preview is different from the stand-along Police Advisory Board meetings. At the Fleet Preview, the PAB members join about a thousand government, commercial and rental fleet professionals. This gives the PAB member a much wider variety of vehicles to drive. Since virtually every police fleet manager buys something in addition to a four-door patrol sedan, joining other fleet buyers once a year is a valuable experience.

The Ride & Drive was divided into four totally separate activities. The first was a timed autocross (aka EVOC course, gymkhana, or slalom). The driver had the choice of two high-performance Mustangs. One was the 300 hp Mustang GT. The other was the Mustang-based, 325 hp Hertz Shelby GT-H. This Shelby-Mustang has a cold-air intake and lower restriction muffler.

This involved a 40 to 45 second slalom race through a pylon course. Both cars were timed, but the time in the Hertz Shelby became an officially published time in the pursuit for one of three trophies. The Mustangs, both GT and Hertz Shelby, have lots of power, and the somewhat open nature of the EVOC course allowed aggressive driving and throttle-on oversteer.

An awesome pursuit car, in fact, the car that started an entire niche of traffic enforcement, the new generation Mustang was initially considered for a special service package. In part due to the PAB’s recommendation against it, the Mustang will not be offered in Ford’s police line.

Grand Touring

The next event was a more gentlemanlike tour through a similar pylon course in one of Ford’s Premier Auto Group (PAG) vehicles. The cars for the stately tour through the cone course included the Jaguar XJ8L and S-TYPE; the Volvo V50, V70, S40, S60R and XC90; and the Mazda CX-7. The “European handling” course was virtually identical to the Mustang’s autocross course: sweeping turns, S-turns, lane changes, short straights and braking while turning.

While this course was intended to give some genteel seat time in Ford Motor Company’s best cars, the drivers were also permitted to push the elite sedans and SUVs. The real benefit of this aggressive driving was to experience the stability control that most these cars have. I drove the Jaguar S-TYPE to the limits of tire adhesion. It was virtually impossible to lose control of the vehicle on the pylon course. Both oversteer and understeer were instantly corrected by a brake pulse from the opposite end of the car.

Stability control is a safety feature. In fact, Tom Artushin, Ford’s safety strategy manager, repeatedly emphasized this point is his presentation of Ford’s occupant safety systems. He spoke specifically about the Roll Stability Control (RSC) used on Ford’s SUVs and E-series vans. This form of stability control is more advanced than the system used on Jaguar, Lincoln and Volvo sedans. RSC uniquely includes roll-sensing, while most stability control systems just use yaw-sensing.

Per Artushin said, “You can’t have a higher priority than safety.” Because he labeled these stability control systems as a safety feature, we anxiously await stability control on the sedans public safety professionals drive: Crown Victoria and Five Hundred.

Street Drive

While 40 seconds of steering wheel thrashing on the Mustang and 60 seconds of touring in the Jaguar certainly have some merit, the third event was one of the most beneficial. This was a 25-minute street drive. The route took the driver out of the Las Vegas Speedway grounds and onto a variety of interstate and state roads.

This drive involved extended time at posted speed limits at a pace completely up to the driver. You could stop; get out of the car, whatever. There was no pressure on the driver, and virtually any course could be followed…just don’t get lost in the Nevada desert. Ford Fleet had directions for a driving circuit, but you could cut the drive short, or extend it; it was that relaxed.

A wide variety of Ford sedans, SUVs and pickups were available: Five Hundred, Fusion, Focus, Freestyle, Escape, Explorer, Expedition EL, F-150, F-250 and E-350 van. We selected the new Expedition EL, a stretched version of the Expedition and direct competitor to the Chevy Suburban. Even powered by a 5.4L V-8, the Expedition EL was not fast, but the mileage was reasonable for such a large vehicle. The trip computer recorded a 15.2 mpg “average” full economy over 215 miles on this interstate and state road circuit.

Off-Road Course

The final event was the off-road course geared for SUVs and pickups. These included the Explorer, F-150, F-250, F-350, Ranger, Volvo XC70 and Land Rover LR-3. We went for the F-250 Super Duty, a pickup that Ford is actively evaluating as a non-pursuit special service vehicle.

Again, unlike the extremely short pylon courses, the off-road course was about 10 minutes of seat time. The course involved offset bumps, a twist ditch, a genuinely challenging hill and the kind of rough and rugged terrain you would expect from a construction site, which this was. The course is nothing like what Border Patrol agents face every day, but it was a good deal rougher than what most pickups in police service see. There was at least some high centering, seat bouncing and four-wheel spinning.

An excellent addition to the off-road section was an autocross cone course built into the return to the staging area. Of course, the lanes were pretty wide, but in addition to the sweeping turns, there were a few 90-degree turns, a couple of places to stop and a couple of long stretches of smooth, flat pavement for acceleration and braking. This was an all-together excellent course. The Super Duty did what has made it an extremely popular heavy-duty pickup, a great platform for special service police work.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2006

Rating : 8.0

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