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First Aussie cop cars hit US streets

Unmarked US export: The first detective versions of Holden's Adelaide-built Chevrolet Caprice PPV have been sold in the US.

First Chev Caprice police cars delivered to US buyers as Holden resumes US exports

Chevrolet logo6 Jun 2011

THE first examples of GM Holden's Australian-built Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) were delivered to North American law enforcement agencies last month.

Representing the first exports for Holden since GM killed off its historic Pontiac brand - and Holden's Commodore SS-based Pontiac G8 - in 2009, Holden has confirmed the first 23 long-wheelbase Caprice-based sedans were sold in May, from an initial shipment of unmarked detective-spec vehicles that set sail from Adelaide in February.

"More detective vehicles are in the process of being delivered," said Holden corporate affairs manager for South Australia, Melanie Kerin.

"There are currently more vehicles undergoing the pre-delivery process in the States," said Ms Kerin when asked whether the number of cars sold in May reflected GM's projected monthly US sales.

Holden supplies Chevrolet in the US with cars, which are fitted out with police equipment on their arrival in California and then sold to police forces by dealers.

A second shipment consisting of marked patrol cars left Australia in late April and is scheduled to become available to police by the end of this month.

137 center imageLeft: Chevrolet Caprice PPV.

All the cars shipped so far are powered by a 6.0-litre V8 capable of running on E85 ethanol fuel.

Less powerful but more efficient 3.6-litre V6 versions will also be produced, but Ms Kerin was unable to confirm when.

As we've reported, the Adelaide-built US-only cop cars offer sculpted front seats designed to accommodate gun belts, and eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with high-wear material and a seat-back security panel.

Other equipment comprises a full-width prisoner partition, front-only side and head curtain airbags, electronic stability control, 18-inch steel wheels with bolt-on centre caps and wheel covers, a certified 180mph analogue speedometer and a ‘Driver Information Center’ with a “Trap Speed” feature to capture speed when tracking other vehicles.

Rear accommodation consists of a grey cloth-upholstered bench seat and rubber flooring, while optional extras include a vinyl rear seat and floor coverings, an auxiliary battery to power police equipment and a full-size spare tyre under a flat rear cargo floor.

The detective version's gear lever is repositioned to the left in order to accommodate computer equipment, while the patrol car gets a column-mounted gear shifter.

The US police market – which can exceed 70,000 units per year – has been monopolised by Ford’s archaic ladder-chassis Crown Victoria for a decade.

However, the Crown Vic will bow out of production in September, enabling new candidates such as the Chevrolet Caprice PPV, Dodge Charger Pursuit and an upcoming entry from start-up company Carbon Motors to vie for business with the Blue Oval's new police fleet contender, the Taurus-based Police Interceptor.

Last September, Michigan state police put the Caprice PPV through its paces against products from Ford and Dodge.

Holden's WM Caprice-based PPV also performed well against competition from Ford and Dodge in recent testing by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department at its annual police vehicle trials.

As of December last year, nine police departments including California, Michigan and Florida had requested tender contract documents for the Australian car.

The rear-wheel drive Caprice PPV joins Chevrolet’s front-drive Impala and all-wheel drive Tahoe in GM's law enforcement vehicle stable, which according to the bow-tie brand says makes it the only manufacturer to offer a full line of specialised police vehicles.

As GoAuto reported in March, according to US website GM Inside News General Motors has approved a second generation of the Holden WM Caprice-based police vehicles to follow the current version.

The General has also reportedly green-lighted the program for a Chevrolet ‘SS Sedan’ based on the next-generation short-wheelbase VF Commodore, which is not expected to arrive until 2014.

In addition, the website claimed to have documents showing GM is also considering imports of the Holden Sportwagon and Ute – the latter being referred to as the 'El Camino', a name used by Chevrolet between 1959 and 1987 for its legendary coupe-styled pickup.

Holden has coveted US exports for decades and worked to re-establish a program after Pontiac was axed in the wake of the global financial crisis and GM’s subsequent bankruptcy, following encouraging sales of the Monaro-based GTO coupe and then the Commodore-based G8 sedan.

Before he became GM North America boss, former Holden chief Mark Reuss was instrumental in developing the Chev PPV business case, which would have been much harder to establish in today's economic climate.

The Australian dollar continues to soar above parity with the US dollar and is today worth in excess of $US1.07, making exports less profitable.

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