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Automakers race to make new cop car

A police car blocks a street near Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Try this. Next time you see a police car, instead of staring at your speedometer,
take a look at the model of that car. Chances are it's a Crown Victoria, made by Ford. For years, Ford's had a lock on the cop car. But this year, the company said it's discontinuing the Crown Vic. Now, it's hoping to get police excited about their new car, but Marketplace's Alisa Roth reports, Ford now has some competition.


Alisa Roth: Here are some of the things that make cop cars different from regular cars:

Travis Yates: Much more durable brakes and brake pads. We like to see the frame a little more sturdier in case of collisions or things like that.

Travis Yates is an expert on law enforcement driving at the Tulsa Police Department. Here he is with the one you've been waiting for:

Yates: And some of your interiors things are going to be much more durable because you're going to be hauling prisoners.

He says the Crown Victoria also had a V8 engine, rear-wheel drive and a price law enforcement agencies could handle.

Now the Detroit Three -- and a fourth upstart called Carbon Motors -- are all racing to come up with the next Crown Vic. The question is whether it's really worth it.

Jessica Caldwell is an analyst at Edmunds.com. She says carmakers are really trying to get away from building fleet cars. And that the law enforcement market's just too small.

Jessica Caldwell: When you're looking at an overall volume of over a million units per year, I'm not 100 percent sure that, you know, they want to just develop a vehicle just for law enforcement agencies.

But Travis Yates says it's absolutely worth it: there are always going to be cops and they'll always need cars.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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True, Ford is working on a CV replace-ment based on the current Taurus. Chrys-ler is selling police interceptors based on the Charger. GM sells a police version of the Impala and the Tahoe SUV; and plans to bring over a version of the Holden Commodore and re-badge as a Chevy police version only. Carbon Motors has a few prototypes running around(Mercedes in-line 6 turbo-diesel powered); but has no manufacturing facility. The market for law enforcement and special services vehicles is less than 500,000/year; not the 1 million the Edmunds analyst says. Ford continues to build the CV police interceptor through the 2010 model year. Sure, there's competition, but the sky is not falling on Ford's share of the police interceptor/special services market.

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