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Ford Police Advisory Board

Written by Police Fleet Manager Staff

The big Ford news from their recent Fleet Preview and Police Advisory Board meeting was reasonable proof of market dominance. Market share fluctuates up and down based on a number of factors. The announcement of a new vehicle may suppress sales of a current vehicle pending the production of the new vehicle or one with new features. Departments may hold off purchases waiting on the AWD version of the Charger, the NextGen version of the Tahoe, or the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost version of the Ford PI Utility, which went on sale in December of 2013 and is available now.

So, the month-to-month market share may fluctuate based on a big purchase of any one make or model. Even the end and start of a fiscal year (July 1, October 1, and January 1) may affect overall sales and market share. Of course, the end and beginning of a model year may have an effect. A brutal winter might not affect sales but can definitely interrupt deliveries. Finally, sales orders, vehicle deliveries and vehicle registrations may all give slightly different market share results. Heads-up. Not all police vehicles are registered by the department.

For all these reasons, Ford has been cautious about market share claims. Recently however, the trends and fluctuations have stabilized. Ford has solid numbers that place them in the 50 to 55 percent market share of the police vehicle market. This is based on combined sales of the PI Sedan and PI Utility. As a point of reference, the Ford CVPI alone had between 70 and 75 percent of the market for the past 20 years.

During this rise to market leadership, the ratio of PI Sedan to PI Utility has dramatically changed. What started off as a 65:35 in favor of the Taurus-based PI Sedan has completely reversed. The most recent numbers put it as 60:40 in favor of the Explorer-based PI Utility. The announcement of the 365 hp 3.5L EcoBoost V6 in the PI Utility promises to even further “boost” the popularity of the PI Utility.

 

Police Advisory Board

Ford’s Police Advisory Board is made up of more than 20 police officers and fleet managers equally selected from big city, county, state and federal; America and Canada; rural and urban; and from all regions of the US. The PAB acts as a sounding board for ideas, concepts and proposals presented from Ford Fleet. In turn, the PAB gives feedback from in-service use of Ford police vehicles.

The PAB members are typically the first to know about service concerns, perhaps small and isolated, perhaps major and trending to widespread. This is a two-way dialogue at its most frank, if not outspoken and open. The exchanges between Ford and its PAB are cop-to-cop honest. PAB members also act as Ford’s spokesmen to the police community. If you have a concern, or question, the contact information for every PAB member is on Ford’s website.

Every fleet manager should be familiar with how to fill out the global concern reporting process. That is the fastest, highest profile, most reliably way to notify Ford of a possible service issue. Have the VIN available.

Since its formation, PAB members have had three-year terms, with one-third of the members rotating off every year and new members joining every year. Ford had the wisdom to halt this rotation near the end of the CVPI production. By freezing the PAB membership immediately before the start of the NextGen Police Interceptor project, gave a consistency to the PAB throughout the early development and launch of what became the NextGen Police Interceptors. It also allowed those PAB members, who often met three times a year, to claim ownership of the NextGen vehicles, to see the fruit of their labor, to be a part of it all from start to finish.

For the first time since the Explorer America Concept was unveiled at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, some members of the PAB have “graduated.” Representatives from the Massachusetts State Police, and eight others were honored at the PAB with the words, “You have helped design the Next Generation of police vehicles for the Next Generation of police officers,” said Fritz Ahadi, General Manager, Commercial and Government Fleet Sales.

 

New and Upcoming

The PI Sedan and PI Utility have successfully passed the Introduction stage in the product life cycle. In fact, the police sales figures clearly show both PIs to be in the Growth stage. That is the time when there have been enough units in the field to start receiving a consistent feedback—what officers like, and what little tweaks need to be made.

For 2015, the payload rating on the PI Sedan was changed from a vehicle generic label to a vehicle specific payload label. The original payload rating was 950 pounds, and is now reflected specifically for each vehicle depending on options between 1220 and 1340 pounds. This payload rating is extremely important to some agencies and even affects the selection of patrol vehicle.

By far, the most important change to the PI Sedan is the area of ingress (enter) and egress (exit). The longer nylon tether on the front doors was a running change almost a year ago. This allows the driver’s door to open slightly (just slightly) wider. Ford Fleet is considering options to even widen the door opening arc farther.

That said, for 2015 Ford will be making a slam-dunk change to the body opening to allow much, much easier entry and exit. The two-piece plastic trim panel attached to the PI Sedan B-pillar has been totally changed. Instead of squared-off trim pieces, the moldings now closely follow the layers of B-pillar sheet steel behind the trim pieces. This has got to be one of the smallest changes for the biggest improvement in automotive history. No kidding.

In full duty gear, it is now relatively easy for most police officers to enter and exit the PI Sedan. None of the actual sheet steel of the body opening has changed, just the two-piece, upper and lower trim panel. This change will be, of course, made on both the driver and passenger side. While it does not completely resolve the issue for taller officers, it greatly helps them. The (essentially) wider left-right opening makes the up-down head duck much easier to do for taller officers.

Not only does the new B-pillar trim allow easier entry and exit, it also allows the left elbow to move farther to the rear while seated. As a surprise bonus, the two new trim pieces can be retrofitted to all NextGen PI Sedans. Production of the new vehicle begins in August 2014. These new trim pieces should be available as parts shortly after that.

The only drawback to the new B-pillar pieces is the seat belt ring is no longer height adjustable. Instead, it is fixed in the upward-most position. This is the seat belt position most PI Sedans are driven in anyhow.

 

New Police Seats

Ford is making a number of improvements to the front seats in both the PI Sedan and PI Utility. These vehicles have always used the same front seats and will continue to do so.

First, the side bolsters on both the inboard side and outboard side are being reduced in height. This will reduce (?) the fabric wear. Lower seat bottom bolsters will make it 1) easier to enter and exit; 2) allow more room for the muzzle and butt of the duty gun (left or right hand); and 3) reduce the fabric wear on the bolster itself. In addition, the upper seat back bolsters are also being reduced. This will also make it easier to enter and exit, and also allow more room for the holster, which get squeezed above the seat bottom, in front of the seat back and under the seat belt.

These three recent and new for 2015 changes (low-profile B-pillar trim pieces, longer door tether, lower seat bolsters) will make it much, much easier to enter and exit the PI Sedan.

 

More Durable Fabric

The other change to the PI Sedan and PI Utility seats is to a more durable, wear-resistant fabric. In police use, there were three sources of wear. First, wear to the bottom bolster and insert simply by sliding in and out of the seat. Second, wear to the back bolster and insert from the gun butt, especially from handguns with metal magazine base plates. Third, wear to the seat back insert from the exposed Velcro® on the duty belt.

Ford responded with a police-specific wear test. This new test method goes beyond the retail wear tests and includes worst-case police equipment. As a result, they made both fabric and foam changes to the 2015 seats. The new combination has two to three times the wear resistance and durability of the materials used at launch.

 

Better Foot Ergonomics in Utility

For 2015, Ford will also be making a big improvement to the foot box area on the PI Utility. They are moving the left side “dead pedal” (foot rest) forward by 3 inches. At the same time, they are tilting the top of the foot rest up, i.e., the top inclined more to the driver. This helps both left foot room and offers a more natural foot placement angle.

Just as important, they are increasing the lateral space between the dead pedal and the brake pedal 2 inches to the left, i.e., increasing the gap to the brake pedal by 2 inches. This allows the left leg to more easily stretch out and extend all the way to the toe board. For officers who spend a lot of time in the PI Utility, this is a major improvement in driver comfort. This redesigned dead pedal is for the PI Utility only, but Ford is studying such a change to the PI Sedan.

 

Special Service Police Sedan

Ford had earlier announced a 2.0L EcoBoost I-4 as a maximum fuel economy but non-pursuit option on the Taurus Sedan. Since the engine and tires were about the only non-police package components on this admin-oriented vehicle, Ford gave it a composite name Special Service Police. This perfect-for-the-task sedan was covered in detail in the May-June 2014 issue of Police Fleet Manager. The 2.0L SSP Sedan was available for PAB members to test drive.

The other police-oriented announcement made earlier was the 365 hp, 3.5L EcoBoost V6 option on the Police Interceptor. Contrary to concerns about too much horsepower for the PI Utility, the EcoBoost version is responsive but does not turn the police crossover into a tire-burning speed demon. The 365hp Utility proved the point at the annual Los Angeles County Sheriff vehicle test.

With 400 pounds of ballast in the cargo area, the 3.5L EcoBoost PI Utility had exactly the same lap times as the average (base) V6-powered police sedan from Chevy, Dodge and Ford. That’s right…it takes a 365 hp V6 in a crossover to equal the performance of a 300 hp V6 in a sedan. Look for an in-depth review of the 3.5L EcoBoost PI Sedan in the Sept-Oct 2014 issue of Police Fleet Manager.

Even with the 305 hp 3.7L V6, the PI Utility is now doing the work of bigger SUVs and pickups. There is plenty of room in the Utility for four Haneai mechanical indicator scales. Commercial enforcement officers simply do not need bigger, slower, less fuel efficient vehicles. The pursuit-rated, PI Utility can easily hold the 160 pounds.

 

New Muni Fleet Vehicles

For police and sheriff’s departments that use the Ford E-series van, Ford introduced a totally new full-size van, the Transit. This NextGen service van is important to Ford since one of every three commercial vehicles they sell is a van.

The biggest news of all from Ford is their totally redesigned, aluminum body F-150 pickup. The use of mil-spec aluminum instead of steel shaves 700 pounds of weight. The frame will continue to be high-strength steel, as will some crash safety-related structural components. The lighter body allows the F-150 to have a higher haul rating, a higher tow rating, faster acceleration, and better fuel economy. Since red rust is no longer a possibility, Ford expects the residual value to also rise. The powertrain options include the 5.0L V8, 3.5L V6, 3.5L EcoBoost V6 and new for 2015, 2.7L EcoBoost V6.

 

LASD Test Results

The PAB heard a presentation on the Los Angeles County Sheriffs vehicle tests. The LASD tests have a different focus than the Michigan State Police tests. The LASD tests are, not surprisingly, urban and suburban oriented while the MSP tests are more rural and highway oriented. The LASD tests do not include top speed testing but do include a real-world fuel economy test.

The PI Sedan and PI Utility did extremely well overall at LASD in all of their available powertrains. For a detailed review of the LASD tests, see the March-April 2014 issue of Police Fleet Manager or check the Article Archives at www.hendonpub.com

Next year will be the MSP and LASD tests to watch. In the past, all Ford vehicles were run with the stability control in the “full-on” or default mode. The Dodges ran in the “partial-off” mode, while the Chevys ran in the “partial-off” with the transmission set to “sport” mode. These other modes require the driver to reset the mode every key cycle, i.e., every time the car is started. For 2015, a much more common-sense test protocol will be used. At both MSP and LASD, the vehicles will be tested in the key stroke cycle, default position. The LASD will also be using a brand-new city pursuit course in 2015. It is going to be interesting.

 

Important New Options

New for 2015, the PI Sedan and PI Utility can be upfitted with Havis Integrated Control System. This 12.1-inch embedded screen is a joint effort between the Los Angeles Police Department, Havis, Ford, Lectronix and Crown North America. See the January-February 2014 issue of Police Fleet Manager for complete coverage on this fully integrated, in-dash display.

Ford unveiled an interesting lighting option for the PI Utility. It is a 6 LED light mounted on the trailing edge of the rear window spoiler. The LEDs can serve as a traffic advisor or as any color emergency lights. Flash patterns are programmable, as is a dimmer option. With many crossovers being used as slicktops, and the heavy tint on the rear lift gate glass, the spoiler mounted lights are an excellent solution.


Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jul/Aug 2014

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