Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"Last of the V-8 Interceptors..."

With the imminent demise of the Crown Vic, longtime staple of livery fleets and cop shop parking lots, Chevy is going to try to fill the vacuum by getting back into the RWD fleet sedan game. Well, sort of.

Having basically handed the market for RWD fleet vehicles to Ford on a silver platter when they dropped the B-bodies back in '97, Chevy is going to try to get at least some of it back with a "Law Enforcement Only" Holden Chevrolet Caprice. Lord only knows how they plan on doing the "Po-Po Only" bit; I knew a couple people in the early '90s who drove Taurii with the distinctive dual exhausts, dog dish hubcaps, and transmission cooler vents of the police package, which was obtainable via any dealer's fleet guy.

You know, the one thing Detroit, and especially GM, did better than anybody else was build big, plush, rugged, body-on-frame sedans. And instead of playing to their strengths, they pissed away whatever competitive advantage they had by playing the other guy's game, and playing it badly. Rather than squandering all their corporate blood and treasure on a whole host of poorly-conceived, ill-built, me-too-mobiles like the Citation and Cimarron and Skylark, they should have just licensed the Corolla and Camry as badge-engineered entry-level Chevys and let Buick be Buick. Now we have to import our American sedans from Oz; the shame of it all...

24 comments:

Old NFO said...

It will be on the US market in two-three years as soon as Fleet buyers pick up on it. It's a direct competitor for the new Taurus.

Dano said...

I was behind a local police car the other day an noticed it had an 'Interceptor' model plate/tag on the trunk. I had no idea that it's a legitimate car make/model.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Crown_Victoria_Police_Interceptor

Carteach0 said...

Sigh.....

reflectoscope said...

1. A vehicle for the 5-0 with a distinctive set of headlights that won't be some damned q-tip out for a joyride? I'm in.

2. The Aussies get all the cool cars. And Aussie V-8 Supercar. Boo.

Jim

Anonymous said...

They still have to compete with Ford, and at the rate GM is going they may not be around to be competitive in that market sector.

Gmac

WV: metiore...see crater, as in the path GM is on.

staghounds said...

"Here I am cruising along at 65 mph in top gear, and it's turning over at 1500 rpm. It's IDLING.

You fat Aussie slacker".

I always wondered why, when it could have bought Toyota and Honda out of petty cash, Detroit didn't.

I'm sure that wherever car company board members go after they die, that meeting is rehashed every day.

And I saw that Clarkson review of the Holden and sort of wanted one, even though I'm a 4wd person.

Here's Hammond's- including a hellacious pickup from Australia, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkiZdcAR6WU

Ken said...

Oldest story in the world: they took (long before they became Twentieth Century Motor Company) the King's shilling, and had to dance to the King's tune.

The King, alas, was tone-deaf and had no rhythm besides.

Matt G said...

As a guy who's spent most of his career behind the wheel of a Crown Vic Interceptor, all I can ask is that you continue to preach it, girl.

The thing that really sunk the Crown Vic was that it was so popular, it became ubiquitous.

Every department bought them, because they were 130 mph tanks that could give 130k of good service, seat 5 adults, handle sort of decently (sort of), and could be had for $20 or less. They were everywhere in law enforcement and emergency services. If you were driving down the highway at night and approached red and blue flashing lights, you knew that very soon your headlights would fall on a Crown Vic Interceptor.

As would drunks' headlights, right before they rear-ended the cop car on the side of the road. And the sleepy people. And people hydroplaning and slipping on ice and having blowouts and whatnot. These weren't just typical rear-endings like you and I might get in our POVs at the stop sign when we pull up and then stop. These were HIGH SPEED rear-endings. This is the kind that ruptures gas tanks and makes occupants inside turn crispy. (Note: drunks who hit police cars also sometimes speed.)

And, because NEARLY ALL cop cars were CVI's, the rates for rear-end collisions that resulted in burning car fires shot up among that model of car. Ford did too little, too late (only installing kits in the trunk rather than going on the offensive and telling folks the truth: That any car rear-ended at high speed is going to see similar rates of fires.), and the media hype went on and on about those DeathTrap Crown Victorias.

Fleet managers were told that they couldn't run the risk of paying out the liability if an officer got burned. They quit buying the CVIs, and turned to Impalas and Dodges and SUVs. Ford lost its largest market, and threw in the towel for the a wonderfully value-packed sedan that was doomed by Chicken Little.

Joseph said...

Well, I'd say that Detroit listened to the critics who bashed all those keen cars like the Caprice (the RWD beast that I loved) and demanded Detroit give us what the Japanese were selling. I recall far too many folks wringing their hands and declaring that the Japs were eating our lunch!

Now Detroit is turning out uninspiring fodder. The only thing they've got left over other car makers are light trucks. The Japanese will never truly make a decent pickup until Toyota becomes an American car company (which it seems to be doing). The Tundra appears to be a decent truck on the surface, but it doesn't have a soul.

falnfenix said...

that Caprice is ugly, but MAN would it make for a fun beater.

especially if they leave the rack behind the driver. :)

Tam said...

Matt,

It really is the end of an era. The last body-on-frame RWD passenger car from Detroit. You just can't jump curbs at speed in a unibody, especially after it's got a hundred kay on the clock...



Joseph,

In retrospect, Ford is the only US manufacturer that build a midsize FWD sedan worth buying. The efforts from GM and Chrysler ranged from merely insipid (Celebrity) to awful (early K-cars). The fact that the unreliable, water-soluble Ares/Reliant were seen as the "saviors of Chrysler" in the early '80s should say more about the low ebb of our expectations than anything else...

Roberta X said...

That thing looks like a running shoe, not a car.

I miss the gawrshawful big Chryslers the Indiana State Police drove in the '70s. That may have been the first "iconic" police car to fade away. (My Dad had the civvy version in white, which had an effect on other drivers; he was pretty tickled when it dawned on him why they tended to drop to the limit when when they that thing in their mirrors....)

B.S. philosopher said...

My dad just passed his '96 Impala SS to my niece for her high school graduation after he bought a new fullsize Dodge Ram.

The Impala's got 140k miles on the clock and it still gets 27 measured MPG on the Highway. My niece has fielded 8 EIGHT!!! offers to buy it so far, and not even most of them from 300 lb black guys.

A nearly 14 year old 4 door sedan and people are coming out of the store and asking out of the blue to buy it.

It's got airbags and crumple zones and a 260HP 5.7 L V-8. Why can't GM just make some more?

It's a rhetorical question, I know WHY. It doesn't meet new impact standards and it would raise the CAFE levels for GM, but damn.

It's a mediocre looking car with the unfortunate upside down bathtub styling of the Caprice, with an engine that is relatively mild (from a hot rodding standpoint).

But you can't buy anything like it anymore.

theirritablearchitect said...

"...they should have just licensed the Corolla and Camry as badge-engineered entry-level Chevys and let Buick be Buick."

Funny you should say that, as GM actually did just that back in the 80's, though few probably remember.

The Nova from that era (and later the Geo/Chevy Prism) was a badge-engineered car, straight from Toyota, and it was a really good seller...for the short time that GM had a contract for doing the B-E thing with Toyota. I recently told my wife (the Furriner) about Detroit's attempts at moving into the 'import' market that was rapidly expanding during those times, and that someone in Detroit actually had the right idea with at least some of it, the Nova being a really good example.

I've never understood why the Big Three ever even tried to do the small car market any other way. Keep building trucks and big cars, and leave the small stuff to the companies that know how to do it right.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Tam said...

"Funny you should say that, as GM actually did just that back in the 80's, though few probably remember."

Yup, I was selling Chevys back then (1988). The Geo introduction, with its rollover from Nova to Prizm, was a Big Deal, but botched from the git-go.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Bad news for GM... not only do they have to try to compete with the Ford Taurus for emergency vehicles, they also have to compete with the Dodge Charger - which seems to be suddenly giving the Taurus a run for it's money. Apparently, every few years Ford stops production on the police package Taurus for a year or two while they redesign it and retool. Since they did that a year or so ago, practically every department has gotten into the Charger (our own PD has at least two, and more on order). Beyond anything else, it has a greater visual impact than any of the boring 'traditional' police models.

cmblake6 said...

Excellent post. And, *sigh*, truth. When I worked for the medical transport company our cars were fleet V-8 Crown Vics. I loved that car. Cruising back from a patient delivery, listening to tunes on the stereo, totally comfortable, I had, *ahem*, reason to look at the speedo. Solid as a rock, comfortable cruise, 115 mph. LOTS of throttle left. Good brakes too! By the time I crested the hill to se the DPS with the radar, I was doing 65 just like I was supposed to. :)

Cathode "Ray" said...

Have you seen the Carbon E7?

NattyBumpo said...

FLIR on the Po-Po cars. I remember when Cadillac was going to offer FLIR on their high-end cars with heads up. It was going to be able to track the car in front of you for 30 minutes in a NE snow storm. The quick stop to it was that it would give anyone with it the ability to find Mr. Policeman on the side of the road with his laser. Anytime he would touch the trigger to pick someone up the FLIR would light up like a christmas tree. It never saw the light of day as far as I know. That and FLiR got busy filling contracts for Infantry helmets.

Nat

Stretch said...

Crown Victoria Interceptors? Nah, give me a 1977 Fury III with 440cid engines and 4bbl. carb. Single digit mileage and would eat a set of tires a month. Would love to hear one of those thing at idle just one more time. SIGH.

Lergnom said...

'67 Delta 88 for me. 425 with a 2-barrel, got 25 mpg highway with the a/c on.
When I inherited my father's '69 Impala, I sold the Olds to an Electrolux salesman who promptly wrapped it around a utility pole.

Gewehr98 said...

Was gonna mention all the LE Chargers and LE Magnum Wagons I see in my neck of the woods, but got beat to the punch...

alath said...

"And instead of playing to their strengths, they pissed away whatever competitive advantage they had by playing the other guy's game, and playing it badly."

Whenever some person or company makes a decision that, on the face of it, looks totally insane, be on the lookout for an asinine government regulation.

In this case, you need look no farther than CAFE, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy law.

CAFE could be a case-study for a dissertation on perverse incentives and unintended consequences.

FatWhiteMan said...

GM doesn't have to compete with Ford. The government just has to order all of their agencies to buy from Government Motors. GM doesn't have to build a car that competes, they just have to build a police car so they have one in inventory to sell.