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The U.K. Police Fleet Expo

Written by Roger Blaxall

The Blue & Amber Light Fleet Exhibition and the National Association of PoliceFleet Managers’ Conference is entering its 41st year. The event is recognized as the oldest and one of the largest emergency service fleet events in Europe.

The unique exhibition focuses on transport for Police, Ambulance and Fire & Rescue but also attracts exhibitors and visitors from the other emergency services, local authorities and some government departments. On display were a comprehensive range of vehicles, equipment and services.

The National Police Fleet Show was held in June 2013 in the English Midlands in Telford, Shropshire. This year saw the event move for the first time to Telford, its international Conference Centre, a fitting backdrop for approximately 180 exhibitors and 200 vehicles.

Setting the scene to remember four decades of U.K. policing was a brilliant evocation of ‘the way we were’ with a selection of Great Police Cars Of The Past providing an interesting backdrop to the event—and timely reminder of how much things have changed since 1973.

From three variants of the iconic Range Rover—now ironically priced out of police service—to a Jaguar 340, Vauxhall Cavalier SRi and Ford Granada concept police car, all were fitting memories of the numerous advances in police car design, engineering and technology.

There are now a handful of manufacturers regarded as main players in the U.K. police car market—all approved by the British Government’s Home Office to supply cars for various roles in the police service.

 

BMW

BMW has forged ahead in recent years with its 3-series and 5-series taking a leading role with many forces’ frontline policing from armed response to road policing. The 1-series took its place in the limelight this year with a one off performance diesel proving a popular draw on its burgeoning stand in provocative ‘SC’ livery—BMW wasn’t officially saying what SC stood for, but there were many educated guesses for the letter S, the C standing for catcher.

 

Ford

Ford’s excellent three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol (gasoline) engine has won numerous plaudits since its introduction in 2012. However, one car not using the EcoBoost engine for police work is one venerable model now reaching the end of its useful life, the Mondeo. Once the mainstay of many police fleets, it is now seen as increasingly irrelevant.

Cars from a class lower in size can fulfill as many roles for today’s officers. That has seen Ford’s Focus range increasingly taking the lead in Emergency 999 sales, both hatch and estate (wagon) proving their worth with forces up and down the U.K.

 

Honda

Honda is still making its presence felt in the U.K. marketplace and a revolutionary new 1.6l- diesel engine will soon be powering the CR-V after making an impressive debut in the latest Civic range, that’ll soon spawn a new Tourer model which debuts soon.

 

Hyundai

The days when fleet managers would eye foreign marques with suspicion are long gone and it’s not taken too long for one Korean manufacturer to make an arresting case for itself with year on year growth that’s the envy of the sector. In the last five years, Hyundai has gone from ‘Zero to Hero.’ Its value for the money product line wins more and more Emergency 999 fleet sales in a very competitive marketplace.

Taking pride of place on this year’s stand were the latest i30 in three- and five-door hatch and tourer (wagon) variants with an i40 Tourer—which only the day before was on duty with the Cambridgeshire force—showing of its sleek lines. Also on show, a new three-door i30 used by detectives taking miscreants around the force area as they reel off their ill-gotten gains prior to a court appearance.

It has been another successful year for Hyundai and as budgets get even tighter, the case for buying Korean is gaining strength given the marque’s enviable reliability and low running costs. How that will play with two of its major competitors, Ford and Vauxhall, only time will tell—but both manufacturers haven’t been idle since the last show.

 

Jaguar – Land Rover

Are Jaguar and Land Rover both pricing themselves out of the 999 market? There were just four models on show this year with the roomy new XF Sportbreak taking pride of place on the stand. Jaguar police cars may well be a very rare sight soon as the company aims cars like the XF and XJ squarely at the lucrative retail and fleet markets. 

The impressive new Range Rover starts at a heady $120,000 plus, while the latest Discovery is a good but very pricey alternative to the Shogun. The Freelander range is still ‘in with a shout’ thanks to advances with its ED4 stop-start 2.2L diesel model.

 

Mercedes Benz

Big news from Mercedes Benz is its definite return to the U.K. 999 market, albeit in highly specialized roles. While its light commercial vehicles are still very much the backbone of Metropolitan forces with its Vito and Sprinter used for safety camera, dog unit and personnel carrying roles respectively, the U.K. importers announced their return into the U.K. marketplace where it’s specifically seeking opportunities for covert roles with its highly regarded diesel E class in saloon (sedan) and tourer (wagon) form.

 

Mitsubishi

And well-respected U.K. 999 supplier Mitsubishi is experiencing a massive uplift in retail sales, which are running at 70 percent year on year. That is due to a much improved model range that has almost seen the demise of many cars in its range following the rationalization of the Evo high-performance models.

Mitsubishi’s new baby Mirage was on show but of more interest is the long-serving Shogun and recently announced updates to the Outlander and L200. The Outlander will soon be available as a plug-in hybrid model.

 

Peugeot

French-owned Peugeot is also one of the major players in the Emergency 999 market and was displaying its in-house capabilities with a number of cars and light commercials. Its interesting stand—one of the largest at the show—showed off both ends of its expertise with a selection of beat cars, cell vans, and dog vehicles along with Scenes of Crime light commercials.

One show star was the ultra-covert 508 diesel hybrid hatch, which marks a new era in hybrid motoring and an expansion of the unique diesel hybrid offering from Peugeot. To show the breadth of the firm’s specialized Vehicle Operation in Coventry, the mid-range Expert has been the subject of high-level talks between the French factory and the U.K. workshops to make the vehicle more compatible with the needs of emergency services throughout Europe.

Inquiries were also made about a new high-performance 208 GTi police car; the firm was staying tight-lipped on whether one would ever be made for policing duties.

 

Vauxhall (GM)

Vauxhall has also had a busy year—an Astra sports tourer was recently shown to the Brit Association of Chief Police Organization (ACPO) as a “future proofed” police vehicle.

Vauxhall claims the prototype model is a technological tour de force boasting a host of features, which help make it among other things a mobile police station; three computers have built-in forensic and face recognition software, high-definition cameras can scan suspects’ faces while on mobile patrol, and CCTV footage can be downloaded and streamed live to a central crime database with its coup de grace the ability to predict crime “hot spots.”

Also on display were models from the latest range of cars and light commercials including the stealth crime fighter, its new high-performance electric Ampera bidding to convert forward-thinking police chiefs to ‘hybrid’ power that still comes at a cost—in Vauxhall’s case some $55,000.

Another car now no longer just a concept is the new Insignia armored hatchback, which joins the good-looking Insignia range. Meanwhile, a wide range of light commercials ranging from the Vivaro prison cell van to dog vans and impressive protected support units make up the company’s offering.  

 

Volvo

Volvo is now a 100-percent Chinese company—not that you would notice. The current range still bears all the hallmarks of its Swedish design and the good-looking V60 “Emergency Specification” model, which made its bow at the event and shows the firm has not lost its touch, joining its accomplished V50 and V70 models in diesel guise.

 

VW Audi

The rise of the VW Audi (VAG) group continues thanks to continued evolution and development of its various marques, which include Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW, its variety of models all suited to a wide range of roles.

Audi, for instance, is becoming the mainstay of a small number of road policing units with its A4 saloon and estate models (exclusively diesel powered) featuring the acclaimed Quattro drivetrain. SEAT will soon be promoting its new Leon and recently introduced Toledo to police fleets. The former is based on the latest generation Golf and the latter on the new Skoda Rapid and Audi A3 saloon. Its talented Alhambra continues its good reputation as a spacious, flexible, well-performing and well-made MPV.

Skoda, meanwhile, will soon have a desirable new Octavia vRS range on offer for Emergency 999 work supplementing the Rapid hatch and Yeti. The vRS promises to be the fastest Octavia ever and sure to bring in more orders as fleet managers “Czech” it out over the coming months.   

The Expo and Conference draws police fleet managers from a dozen countries, including the U.S., for fleet management and fleet maintenance solutions from a different perspective. The 2014 NAPFM conference will be held in early-June in Telford, Shropshire, U.K.

 

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 for magazines in the U.S. and Europe.


Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2014

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