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Official: Holden to export Commodore as US police car

US-bound: Holden's Chevrolet Caprice patrol car could become a common sight in the US.

Lucrative new US export deal emerges as Holden reveals its Stateside police car

5 Oct 2009

GM HOLDEN has come clean on its bid to obtain a slice of up to 70,000 police vehicle sales annually in the US, by revealing its Statesman-based Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV).

As reported by GoAuto in April, Holden has actively pursued a North American law enforcement vehicle deal since exports of the Commodore-based Pontiac G8 sedan ceased earlier this year.

Now it has revealed the first public proof of its plan to attract what could become a far more lucrative export contract than the G8 ever was.

Although G8 sales reached a monthly peak of 2939 in March, a month before GM announced it would axe the historic Pontiac brand as part of its survival plan, the Adelaide-built car attracted an average of 1455 sales per month in the US last year – less than half of the 36,500-odd G8s Holden shipped to North America in 2008.

Holden says the Caprice police vehicle will be available for ordering next year and could hit US streets in early 2011. Because many large US police and emergency service departments make fleet purchases on an annual basis, the Caprice PPV is expected to be considered in next year’s round of orders.

Today’s announcement confirms General Motors’ official bid for vehicle supply contracts with various US police and emergency departments, which operate and order fleet vehicles independently, much like the state police forces in Australia.

So although the Holden police vehicle will compete for tenders with Chrysler’s existing Charger police car and a law enforcement version of Ford’s new Taurus, the Caprice PPV’s official reveal confirms Holden will recommence exports of Commodore-based vehicles to the US - it's just a question of how many.

13 center imageWorking in Holden's favour, it is understood the coupe-like Charger and front-wheel drive Taurus are less attractive to US law enforcement agencies than the Statesman-based long-wheelbase rear-drive Caprice PPV.

Examples of the Caprice patrol vehicle will be revealed simultaneously in Melbourne tomorrow and at the 116th annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in Denver, Colorado, which started on Saturday (October 3).

Catching Holden by surprise, GM revealed news of the Australian-built police vehicle on the eve of its debut at the 2009 IACP event, which is expected to be attended by more than 15,000 law enforcement professionals, as well as GM Holden chairman and managing director Alan Batey.

Holden’s long-wheelbase Caprice PPV is aimed directly at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), whose supply of Ford Crown Victoria police vehicles will evaporate when production of the aged Ford model ceases at the end of 2010.

As North America’s largest police force, the LAPD represents both the most lucrative police vehicle deal for GM and Holden, as well as a litmus test for other US law enforcement agencies.

However, GoAuto understands that although the long-wheelbase PPV was shown in Denver and Melbourne, Holden is able to produce the patrol car in short-wheelbase guise if required. Indeed, among the images of the Caprice PPV released today was a rear-end shot of a VE Commodore SS-based Chevrolet police car.

Also displayed in Denver was a left-hand drive short-wheelbase Commodore SS-based Pontiac G8 police car co-developed by the LAPD and Port Melbourne-based company National Safety Agency (NSA), which also developed the law enforcement technology employed by the Caprice PPV.

The same vehicle was launched by LAPD deputy chief Charles Beck at the 2009 APCO Australasia Conference & Exhibition, held at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney over March 2-4.

NSA operations director Des Bahr told GoAuto in April that his company was in talks with nine separate US law enforcement jurisdictions, which together represented a fleet of up to 40,000 vehicles annually.

But while the Pontiac G8 police vehicle showcased NSA’s technology at Denver, it is understood Holden and NSA will be bidding for US police vehicle business separately, with fitout of the Holden PPV expected to take place in the US.

Holden’s executive director of sales and marketing, John Elsworth, today described the Caprice police vehicle’s reveal as a “ticket to the dance”, but said any share of the total US law enforcement vehicle fleet would be a fillip for his company.

“Today is the start of the process,” he said. “It’s our ticket to the dance. Now we need to go out and really impress the judges.

“North American law enforcement fleets account for about 70,000 sales a year, so securing a fraction of those sales would be a major manufacturing boost for GM’s operations in Australia.

“Opportunities like this don’t come around very often. We are working hard to deliver a world-class product worthy of serious consideration by the police.

“We believe that our strategic partnerships with Australia’s enforcement agencies have certainly helped us better anticipate the needs of the North American customer,” said Mr Elsworth.

General manager for GM Fleet and Commercial Operations, Jim Campbell, said the Chevrolet Caprice police car was the right tool at the right time for law enforcement, with the Denver show widely regarded within the North American law enforcement community as an opportunity to review future equipment and technology for purchase.

“We asked for a lot of feedback from our police customers, who helped us develop a vehicle that is superior to its competitors in key areas,” said Mr Campbell.

Holden says the Caprice PPV will be made available with direct-injection 3.6-litre petrol V6 and Active Fuel management-equipped 6.0-litre petrol V8 engines – both of which will be E85 ethanol-capable.

A range of specialised equipment includes an additional boot-mounted battery for powering police paraphernalia, compatibility with in-dash touch-screen computer technology, sculpted front seats designed to “pocket” the equipment belts of police personnel and the option of front-seat-only side curtain airbags, which allow a full-width rear-seat safety barrier.

According to GM, the Caprice PPV offers a number of advantages over its most direct competitors, including the Crown Victoria, such as an interior volume of 3173 litres and 130mm more rear legroom.

Unlike the Crown Victoria, the Caprice’s 510-litre boot is large enough to accommodate a full-size spare tyre under a flat load surface.

Other unique components include a high-output alternator, engine oil and transmission coolers, standard 18-inch steel wheels with bolt-on centre caps, four-wheel disc brakes with heavy-duty brake pads, heavy-duty suspension components and a police-calibrated stability control system.

The Caprice PPV also features spotlights, power window and door lockouts, high-wear seating materials and a driver information display in the instrument cluster with a selectable speed tracking feature. An ‘undercover’ street-appearance package will also be offered.

“Comfort was an absolute priority when designing Caprice which is essential for anyone spending long hours in their vehicle,” said Holden chief designer, Richard Ferlazzo.

“Caprice PPV ticks all the boxes, providing an optimally balanced package which we believe is superior to the competitive vehicles in all important aspects.

“We think the car projects an image of authority and efficiency which corresponds with the role of law enforcement in today’s society,” said Mr Ferlazzo.

Specific to the NSA’s Pontiac G8 is technology including a large, purpose-designed, multi-function touch screen integrated into dashboard, an intelligent power management system, consolidated user interface, automatic licence plate recognition and in-car video with live broadcast capability.

The NSA G8 also features advanced wireless connectivity, on-the-fly automatic and seamless CAD and computer system updating, a wireless vehicle telemetry fleet management system, a forward-looking infrared/night vision (FLIR) camera, fingerprint and facial recognition capability, a virtual prisoner cell and the latest high-output low-power LED lighting technology.

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