Thursday, October 20, 2005
For most of my 40 years on this planet Ford has been a major player in Law Enforcement vehicles. Thanks to deals with TV production companies, most of the police cars you saw on TV were Ford products, from Mayberry to the Streets of San Francisco and even Jack Lord of Hawai 5-O served and protected in a FoMoCo product. And when Chevy stopped production Ford truly dominated the Police Interceptor market.
Even with some departments moving to front wheel drive Impalas and various SUVs, the majority of police vehicles are Ford Crown Victorias. Well every few years someone tries to knock Ford off that perch and now with the recent bad press and lawsuits, it could be Chrysler's time to shine. Now that they've returned to the world of rear wheel drive sedans, Dodge's Charger could be the car that replaces the Crown Vic. The Auto Prophet points out correctly that Ford's price could be a saving grace, and the service history of the platform has been good. But with the much publicized fuel tank problems Ford could loose an important market.
All the more reason to bring out a redesign or replacement for the aging Panther Platform, which has changed little since 1979. As I've said before, Ford needs a new rear wheel drive platform not a fleet of 500 clones. The Police, Taxi and Limo sales have kept the Panther platform profitable for Ford and they will miss the sales dearly. A redesign for these cars should have been a priority years ago and now is critical with new cometitors on the way. No I don't anticipate that Hyundai will build an Interceptor package on their new rear wheel drive model, but the rumors of GM's return to rear wheel drive and Chrysler's hot new models should be all the motivation needed to get a new Panther class of vehicles out there.
It's not just a matter of money to me, it's another example of Ford admitting defeat in a segment they dominated, like the Ranger in the Compact Truck segment and how the Focus has been left to stagnate while the competition rolls out new product all around it. You can't just surrender markets and hope that full size trucks will keep you going, or hope that Hybrids (which they can't build enough of) are going to pick up the slack.