Why kill the Crown Vic?

When I talk to law enforcement leaders across the country, one question invariable comes up—at least since the news of Ford’s plan to retire the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor came out in 2010. In the two years since the CVPI’s retirement and the introduction of its two replacements, law enforcement still doesn’t understand why Ford would voluntarily quit a good thing. One officer told me that regardless of what the officers or community thought about the police fleet, if Ford kept making Crown Vics, he’d without a doubt keep buying them. With that kind of product loyalty, why kill the Crown Vic?

Lisa Teed has been Ford’s police fleet marketing manager for the last seven years, and most pertinently for this column, during the transition at Ford from the reliable full-size Crown Victoria sedan to its current offerings for police fleets. She knows firsthand how much Ford’s LE customers love their Crown Vics, and why the company still decided to shelf them.

It makes sense why law enforcement

might grow attached: the vehicles were reliable in performance and what they demanded of the fleet budget. Crown Vics weren’t overhauled every couple years but instead stayed—for the most part—uniform, making them easier to upfit with aftermarket police accessories like partitions, push bumpers and light bars. That equipment could transition from the retiring vehicle into the new Crown Vic without the fleet manager worrying. The officer who spends his workday patrolling in the trusty Vic gets accustomed to the vehicle as a tool and a workspace.

Teed explains that the CVPI was designed in 1991, and for the last model year run of that version, the car’s configuration was 20 years old. “Over time, technologies, developments, other things that have been engineered, have not been a part of this Crown Vic because we really didn’t change the product form,” Teed says. “We were going to have to hit this crossroads sooner or later.” Teed uses cell phones as a comparison.

Correlating cell phones and motor vehicles may seem like apples and oranges, and it’s true their purpose and usage are different worlds. But they both exist in the same technology universe, where rates of advancement for computer processing—a vital part of vehicle and phone operation—has better technology debuting regularly. Picture a ’90s brick phone attached to an officer’s hip today. It’s not only stylishly out of place, but that phone can’t do the work that is required of today’s cell (and smart) phone communications. The technologically dated Crown Vic needed an update that didn’t fit its 20-year-old mold.

Teed says for Ford to update its popular police vehicle to meet 21st century capabilities, multiple features were adapted. Safety enhancements in airbag systems, the use of newer, lighter-weight materials and retooling the vehicle standards to offer modern day handling capabilities. These elements weren’t part of the Crown Vic’s original development but are now features on the Interceptors I and II. Another catalyst for change in the automotive industry overall were vehicle safety and performance standard changes from the government.

Vehicle manufacturing requirements for

the next 13 years from the government and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration mandate an increase in fuel economy for new vehicles—which includes all new vehicles and is not exclusive to vehicles created for police use—as part of a national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By 2016, manufacturers will need their new model year vehicles to have an average fuel efficiency of 35.5 mpg. A new standard finalized in late August will require vehicles to meet an average of 54.5 mpg by 2025.

While many LEOs still lament the bygone CVPI, it’s important to remember it needn’t be just the Ford offerings at hand to understand that 1991’s technologies are no match for today’s reality.