The Ford Police Advisory Board (PAB) meeting for spring 2006 began with a business health review for Ford Motor Co. Like most automakers, it has been hit by a “perfect storm” of the weak U.S. dollar, rising gasoline and steel prices, manufacturing overcapacity, rising health-care costs, low supplier profitability, increased interest rates, a sudden shift in vehicle mix and credit downgrades. That is the bad news oft quoted by the media.
The rest of the story for Ford, however, is the results of its 2002 product-led transformation. After losing money in 2001, Ford has made money every year since then, including $2 billion in 2005. The other part of the story is its restructuring announced in January 2006. Layoffs and plant closures were announced to get the “right” capacity and overhead.
In all of this, Ford Fleet
is unaffected. The St. Thomas (Crown Victoria) assembly plant remains in production. Ford’s overall fleet sales are up 6%, and sales of the Ford CVPI were up 9% for 2005. A slightly freshened 2009 Crown Victoria, using the same Panther platform, is in the works. All of this is good news for law enforcement where the Ford CVPI has 80% of the police market.
As a side note on admin cars, the Ford Five Hundred is the safest sedan in the U.S., according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Five Hundred received a gold rating, the top overall rating, for its individual ratings in front impact, front offset impact, side impact and rear impact. Fleet managers must pay attention to crashworthiness ratings!2007 Ford CVPI
For 2007, Ford Fleet officials announced upgrades to their Police Interceptor, Explorer and Expedition. And they introduced the Expedition XL, which has a wheelbase stretched to match the Chevrolet Suburban.
For 2007, the Ford CVPI is mostly a carryover. An optional AM/FM with CD replaces the AM/FM radio with cassette. The design of the rear door lock disable has changed. The handle-only is disabled. The door lock rod is still installed, so the door can be unlocked if there is no power. The optional power distribution box has been eliminated. This has been replaced by a power distribution connector (12-pin) under the glove box. This has individual connections up to 50 amps.
Ford’s onboard fire suppression system has gained enough acceptance to outsell the capacity to make the system. About 7% of the Ford CVPIs are ordered with this $2,500 option. Ford will soon change the system design from steel to a composite material that will permit faster production.
Mandatory side curtain airbags are coming, probably by the 2011 model year. This continues to represent a serious challenge for both law enforcement and vehicle accessory companies. The side curtain airbags are NOT compatible with the traditional prisoner partitions. A two-piece side curtain airbag (one for front seat, one for rear seat) is not an option for both cost and deployment reliability reasons.
A waiver from the federal government is unlikely. A shut-off option will leave the driver with no side-impact protection since the seat (thorax) airbags will not be offered along with side curtain bags. Prisoner partitions with breakaway spit screens are under development, as are partitions relieved for the airbag deployment zones. At this point, no true, full-security design exists. Setina
, however, appears to be the closest to a workable option.17-inch Tires
The 17-inch tires for the 2006 CVPI were discussed at length. For a while in early 2006, a shortage of the 17-inch Goodyear Eagle RS-A was a concern. The potential shortage of 17-inch Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires was answered in two ways. First, the fleet managers with the PAB approved substitution of the higher performance Pirelli P-Zero Nero M+S as long as there was no surcharge. Second, Ford and Goodyear worked out a plan to increase production of the Eagle RS-A, which should have taken place before summer 2006.
As a prudent hedge, the Los Angeles County Sheriff is conducting its own tire tests on 17-inch tires from Pirelli, Continental and General. For its part, the California Highway Patrol is testing 17-inch tires from Cooper, Firestone and Continental.
The Michigan State Police reported to the PAB its dry-weather testing of speed-rated snow tires. In September 2005, the Los Angeles County Sheriff tested the Pirelli Sotto Zero Winter 240. The tire passed its pursuit test, both in terms of structural integrity and driving impressions.
In February 2006, the MSP performed similar dry-road, cool-weather (not cold) testing on three V-rated, severe snow-rated tires. These included the Pirelli Sotto Zero Winter 240, the Bridgestone Blizzak LM-22 and the Goodyear Ultra Grip GW3. All three were pushed to the limit, and beyond, in an attempt to better understand severe snow tire handling dynamics on dry roads under pursuit conditions.
Each of the tires, in sets of four, was driven by MSP’s EVOC instructors for 72 laps around its 0.9 mile high-speed handling course. That is about 65 miles, which is comparable to the LASD tests. As expected, the tires handled in direct opposition to their snow tread aggressiveness. While all three of these tires had the snowflake-in-mountain, severe snow-rating, the pattern depth and openness of the tread blocks varied.
The Goodyear Ultra Grip had the most aggressive snow tread pattern, and thus was found to break away first. The Pirelli Sotto Zero had slightly less open tread and generated a bit more side face. Likewise, the Bridgestone Blizzak had the least deep, most closed tread blocks and generated the best high-speed lap times. The times were 1 minute 4.5 seconds (Goodyear), 1 minute 3.9 seconds (Pirelli) and 1 minute 3.5 seconds (Bridgestone).
All three tires PASSED the MSP evaluation. All three tires turned in very respectable high-speed performance. All three were predictable in dynamic handling. According to the MSP officials, as long as the patrol car is fitted with four of the same severe snow tires they tested, the officer should have no concerns about a high-speed pursuit with these tires. By the same token, two severe snow tires on one axle of a patrol car and two all-season tires on the other axle is a disaster in the making, RWD or FWD.
As a caveat, Ford Fleet does not offer or make recommendations on a severe snow-rated tire. The only tire that has passed all of the Ford Fleet battery of tests is the Goodyear Eagle RS-A. Service Issues
Ford Fleet officials consistently ask for two things in the area of service concerns. First, they ask the police department to fill out the Global Concern Report, GCR. This is the fastest way to get the highest profile attention...faster than talking to your local dealer and even faster than voicing frustration to your regional government account manager. Nothing gets the attention of the exact people who can fix the problem, including daily reviews by St. Thomas Assembly Plant personnel, like filling out the GCR.
The second thing Ford Fleet requests is samples of parts causing the concern. At this PAB meeting, the Los Angeles department set the pace in this regard by a show-and-tell of an oil pan and a lower control arm.
For 2003, the oil pan was made larger to hold an additional quart of oil. However, it also now hangs just below the cross-member, leaving it unprotected. Even a slight (¼-inch) dent in the oil pan from grounding the car can cause the oil pan to starve the oil pickup tube. This restriction slowly starves the engine of oil without causing the engine to overheat and without activating the “low oil pressure” light. The CVPI engine in this situation has been known to fail in just three shifts.
One of the solutions to the problem is a $60, short skid plate such as those from Go Rhino!
. The LASD is currently testing a full-length Go Rhino! skid plate that runs from the radiator past the transmission. Ford Fleet has received positive input from agencies using skid plates. Since this would cost more, the PAB voted against making the skid plate standard equipment on the CVPI. Ford does not plan on any further action in this area.
The other sample, that of lower control arm, had a crack in the crimp holding the bushing sleeve in place. This is not a crack in the lower control arm itself, but a purely “cosmetic” concern. Once mounted, the brushing cannot go anywhere. The crack in the crimp does not affect the performance or the longevity of the control arm. It is not a safety issue. It does not need replaced. Ford Fleet has published a special service message on this issue, SSM 17545.
Fuel pump issues remain with the 2003 to 2005 model year CVPIs. Ford Engineering is continuing its investigation. SSM 18484 indicates to use only a 5W1Z level prefix pump when servicing the 2005 model. The 5W1Z pump uses a different design.
SSM 17694 involves a reduction of power at wide open throttle after extended idle on some 2003 and 2004 models. This involves verifying the latest PCM calibration and then testing fuel pump pressure after extensive idling. With less than 15 psi and a reduction of power, replacement with a 4W1Z pump is recommended. Finally, TSB 98-26-02 involves a possible fuel pump vapor lock condition due to the use of winter blend gasoline under hot weather during the season changes.
Still being investigated are plugged fuel pumps from contaminations in the gas tank. In some cases, the contaminants come from the fuel itself as they precipitate out of the gasoline in what is essentially a form of refining that takes place in the tank. Fuel pumps that run hotter may cause this precipitation. Fuel pumps on a near-empty tank run hotter than a fuel pump surrounded by more fuel.
Some fleets have indicated ignition coil packs go bad prematurely. For 2004, Ford revised the coil pack with a 3W7E pack, which is interchangeable on any model year CVPI. However, two-thirds of the coil packs returned to Ford for evaluation are good! There are several TSBs dealing with symptoms that could be coil related. Service number 3W7Z-12029-AA. This part number would have been available on cars with build dates in November 2003, which is the 2004 model year. The 3W7Z parts are completely interchangeable with any previous model year Crown Victoria with the 4.6L-2V engine.
Some 2005 and 2006 Crown Victorias built from December 2004 to December 2005 may exhibit the driver’s side lower seat cushion sagging. This is a seat flexilator issue. For those vehicles that have this problem, replace the driver’s side lower seat woven support with a new seat cushion shield, steel seat cushion support and springs. Refer to TSB 06-08-10.The PAB in Action
An example of how the PAB’s fleet managers interact with Ford Fleet is the discussion on the Ford Mustang. In earlier meetings, Ford and the PAB discussed the idea of the Mustang as a pursuit-rated patrol vehicle. This involves more than just taking orders for it. Ford has to engineer the car for this level of service! Steel wheels were necessary for durability reasons. A 200-amp alternator, like the Ford CVPI, must be fitted. And the Mustang must be rear crash tested at 75 mph…the highest standard in the industry. Finally, the floor shift must remain.
This would take serious engineering resources to validate the package. Is it worth the time, effort and expense? Is there a need for such a specialty vehicle? The virtually unanimous decision was NOT to proceed with a highway pursuit package for the Mustang. The trunk is tiny. Even if you could get a prisoner in the two-door coupe, there is no legroom in the backseat. The expected volumes were estimated at well under 1,000 units.
Even if the need existed for such an unbridled traffic car, the reality is that cars such as the Hemi® Charger already fill this niche. It has four doors, a functional back seat...and it is already on the market and available with a police package. That is the sort of thinking and roundtable discussions that go on at PAB meetings. Confidential information is never shared, but both the obvious and the subtle are used to voice opinions and make decisions.2009 Ford CVPI
Nearly all the rest of the PAB meeting was spent discussing the 2009 model, most of which remains business confidential. Virtually no details are available for the 2009 Ford CVPI. No automaker openly discusses future products. However, the basics important to law enforcement are known. The car will remain a full-size, body-on-frame, V-8-powered, rear wheel drive, four-door sedan. It will be upgraded with federally mandated safety features and performance enhancements. There will be no change in the interior space, trunk volume or wheelbase. These updates will keep the Crown Victoria in the Ford lineup for years.
Changes to the 2007 and 2008 models will be incremental and very slight. At the most optimistic, some parts or features funded by the new 2009 may be pulled forward to the 2008 model. However, these will be very minor, such as bright wheel covers to replace the matte finish. Expect the 2007 and 2008 models to be virtually carryovers of the 2006 model.
The 2009 CVPI is a different story! Ford Fleet proposed one change after another. The PAB members discussed these in frank and open meetings. Is this what law enforcement wants? If not this, how about that? If not that, then what?
At times, the meeting sounded like the Jack Roush garage at a Winston Cup NASCAR race. Speed costs money...how fast do you want to go? Do your urban cops want to get to 60 mph one second faster? Two seconds faster? Three seconds faster? Do your highway cops want to go 5 mph faster? Or 10 mph faster? Or 20 mph faster?
Here is how we are going to do each step...and here is what it costs. How many PAB members from city and urban departments want this option? How many PAB members from county and highway departments want the same option?
It was an entire day of alternatives, pricing and take rates. If the take rate was high enough, the topic then changed to the question of making the feature standard equipment. Or should it be an option? If the take rate was low enough, it was dropped for considerations of even being an option.
Almost nothing is firmly established with the 2009 car. Contact your area PAB representative and let your suggestions for the next version of CVPI be known at a time when such improvements can be easily done. All of this means that input to PAB members in your area is critical. The full contact information for Police Advisory Board members is also available on the Web site. Simply click Contacts, then Police Advisory Board, then Representatives.
In an intensely competitive business climate, some things are still confidential, and some things are pending additional engineering development. Ultimately, of course, any production plan can still change in the volatile automotive market. The $3-a-gallon gas proved that. All that said, Ford recently answered The Big Question…the CVPI will live on beyond the 2008 model!Ballast in the Test Vehicles
The CVPI currently undergoes Ford’s vehicle dynamics testing with 200 pounds in the trunk. The MSP and LASD typically test the vehicles with no ballast in the trunk. (Exceptions exist!) This means the CVPI is good to go for patrol use with anything from 0 to 200 pounds (or so) in the trunk.
With all of the WMD and other gear in a modern patrol car, PAB members suggested a 400-pound suspension option. Ford engineers agreed to consider this option. Such a CVPI with springs, shocks and sway bars designed around a 400-pound load will have too stiff a rear suspension for aggressive driving with an empty trunk. But the opposite is also true. A CVPI geared for 250 pounds will have too soft a suspension for a 400-pound cargo.
The Ford CVPI is currently designed around a 250-pound trunk cargo. Ford Fleet and the PAB discussed a heavy cargo option for the future. With this rear suspension, the CVPI would be designed around loads of up to 400 pounds in the trunk.New Vehicles at MSP Tests
Ford Fleet has two significant vehicles scheduled for the Michigan State Police patrol vehicle tests in September 2006. One is a Ford F-150 2WD four-door pickup powered by the 5.4L 3-valve V-8. This will be baseline testing only while work on the F-150 SSV (special service vehicle) progresses. The basics are a four-door, 6-foot bed, with a 5.4L V-8, skid plate, trailer towing package and high output alternator. This NON-pursuit rated pickup would have the center console delete and be available in 2WD or 4x4.
The other vehicle, as timely as ever, is the Ford Escape Hybrid. (See the March-April 2005 issue of Police Fleet Manager magazine
.) The Escape Hybrid will be the 2WD version using the 2.3L inline Four engine. The Escape Hybrid is becoming a major enough player in some police applications that Ford has developed a modifier’s guide specifically for this vehicle.
The Escape Hybrid Modifier’s Guide, available at www.fleet.ford.com, is similar to the Ford CVPI Modifier’s Guide. This provides detailed technical information unique to the Hybrid drivetrain, and the special needs of police equipment. Sections of the guide cover best practices, electrical, mounting, diagrams and airbag deployment zones.
In terms of online tools, www.cvpi.com
is no longer a stand-alone Web site. It has been rolled into www.fleet.ford.com, making just one place to go. The Web site itself is much more point and click.
A new online tool is Batch Oasis. Instead of checking for SSMs, TSBs and recalls one VIN at a time, the fleet manager can now batch load the VIN range. The next business day, the results will be sent as an Excel file via e-mail. This will provide the full history, not just the past 12 months. And the fleet manager can choose the information he is seeking, i.e., all data available or just TSBs, etc. The online modifier’s guide goes back three model years.