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Caprice PPV forges ahead despite currency woes

In for the long haul: Chevrolet Caprice PPV put through its paces.

Holden takes the long view for its US export law-enforcement Caprice

18 Jan 2011

HOLDEN has revealed that its Chevrolet Caprice PPV Police Pursuit Vehicle may take years to establish itself as a law enforcement vehicle in the United States.

It will also not make quite as much money for GM Holden as originally planned when the export project was unveiled in 2009, thanks to an almost 20 per cent hike in the value of the Australian dollar against the US greenback.

The WM Caprice-based rear-wheel drive V8 sedan has already attracted thousands of enquiries in a market where law enforcement agencies typically buy between 60,000 and 70,000 vehicles annually, although neither Chevrolet nor Holden personnel would confirm the exact number of sales so far.

GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux told GoAuto Media at a Caprice PPV demonstration day in Phoenix, Arizona last week he was confident of selling “thousands and thousands” of them.

However, he said it was a long process winning over large forces like NYPD, LAPD and California State Patrol, so GM was working on the smaller fleets, many of which have seven vehicles or less.

“It’s not easy to get the big departments to flip a big fleet of cars over from the older types of police vehicles they run, so we figured it is better to get some of the smaller guys to try one and spread the word,” said Mr Devereux.

“And we’ll certainly make less money. In ’09 when we launched the program, the Aussie dollar was at about $US0.82 – now it’s at $US1.00.

“That’s one of the reasons why you can’t base your business on exports – you ride the curves of the currency – and so you can’t have the basis of your business require you to have that volume, so we have tried to make the smart decisions – like Mark Reuss did – to have the company live on its own means in Australia.

“Are we going to make the same sort of money we thought we were going to make from the start? No way. We can’t.

“But we take a seven, eight, nine or ten-year view on this, and the Aussie dollar will again have an eight in front of it in the future – and that’s probably the long-term sweet-spot for us with the Aussie dollar.

“We’re not at a loss here – but we’re not making as much, either.”

Caprice PPV deliveries will commence in April this year, with fully prepared cars (by long-time Canadian aftermarket vehicle contractors Kerr Industries) ready to hit the streets from June. Only patrol and detective models will be offered, and not to the public.

Most of the 18,000-strong law enforcement agencies will be exposed to the Caprice PPV on its current national multi-date demonstration tour across the US.

While some of these organisations purchase tens or perhaps hundreds of vehicles at a time, most departments are likely to initially buy at best a small number of Caprice PPVs in order to evaluate their effectiveness.

137 center imageA GM insider said that only after word has spread about how good the Holden is will the larger orders begin to come through.

Some agencies are also thought to be holding out for the Caprice PPV V6, which will be slightly cheaper, more economical, and therefore more environmentally responsible.

At $30,995 in the US, the Australian import is up to 10 per cent more expensive than its rivals from Ford (Crown Victoria, which goes out of production in August) and Dodge (Charger).

The global financial crisis hit law enforcement agencies hard, with severe cutbacks across the US, so Chevrolet may have its hands full convincing many departments to hand over the extra cash for a Caprice PPV.

Ford will modify its new Taurus sedan and Explorer SUV to take on GM, which currently offers the widest selection of law enforcement vehicle models in the USA (front-drive Impala sedan, Tahoe SUV, Express Van and now Caprice PPV).

Ford has dominated sales to law enforcement agencies for more than a decade with the Crown Victoria, which is based on a 1979 design but is the only full-frame rear-wheel-drive passenger car available in the US. Last year it sold more than 33,000 ‘Crown Vics’ (including taxis).

Meanwhile, the members of the Arizona police department assembled in Phoenix to drive the latest Chevrolet PPV were almost entirely unanimous in their praise for the ‘Police Caprice’.

Among the most common comments pertained to the Holden’s steering and handling, V8 performance, emergency brake response and high-speed manoeuvrability, rated as class-leading.

However, concerns include the Caprice PPV’s high initial asking price (GM says some discounting will occur), adaptability of costly aftermarket radio and communications equipment already fitted to their existing fleet (despite assurances of almost complete harmonisation) and spare parts availability from Australia (Chevrolet insists all spares are already housed in warehouses throughout the US).

One officer doubted the amount of space available in the Caprice PPV centre console, even though an offset transmission lever is fitted for patrol duty vehicles, while a few disliked the Holden’s stylistic similarity to the Impala from behind.

“Acceleration is fantastic – I like the way it stays in gear when you need it to,” said Danny from Tempe. “There’s no wiggle from the tail, either. This is head and shoulders above the Impala.”“Superior in every way compared to the Crown Vic,” said Patrol Commander Andrew. “It seems it was designed for what we do from the start, making it the most complete package as a police car. We didn’t really expect it to be this good.

“Back in the 1990s GM came out with the front-drive PPV and it failed miserably. This time GM’s answered the call. It’s almost like they’re thinking like a cop!”

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