Chrysler Readies the Dodge Magnum for Police Duty

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    Jul 6, 2001
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    By Eric Morath

    DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group, in pursuit of Ford Motor Co.’s massive share of police vehicle sales, plans to re-enter the market with the new Dodge Magnum wagon powered by the popular Hemi engine.

    Chrysler plans to build a 2005 Dodge Magnum SXT specially outfitted for police use this fall and then offer a 2006 Magnum police package, with an optional Hemi engine, next year.

    The new vehicles will be the first rear-drive, V-8-powered competition to the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor since the mid-1990s. The Crown Victoria holds 85 percent of the U.S. police vehicle market, which generates annual sales of 60,000 units. “We are going to offer a package that will be the most powerful police vehicle available,” said Ray Fisher, Chrysler’s vice president of fleet sales. “When a police officer is in a pursuit, they want to run down anyone on the road. The Hemi gives them the best chance to do that.”

    With horsepower back in vogue, the Hemi has become a hot seller and Chrysler has plans to offer it across the Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep brands.

    “We can’t get the Hemi-powered Magnums in fast enough,” said Russ Maisano, general manager of Sterling Heights Dodge. “People love them. It’s a great engine.”

    Chrysler believes the Magnum’s electronic stability control and storage space — big enough for a dog cage — also will be selling points for law enforcement agencies. Pricing will be released later.

    The Plymouth Grand Fury and other Chrysler cars controlled 45 to 60 percent of the U.S. police vehicle market in the 1960s. Later, the Dodge Aries, Diplomat and Jeep Cherokee were marketed to law enforcement agencies. Most recently, Chrysler offered a police package on the Dodge Intrepid sedan, which is no longer in production.

    With the economy improving, Fisher said the Magnum is entering the market just as municipalities are looking to buy new vehicles. It also debuts as Crown Victoria police cruisers are the subject of numerous complaints and lawsuits stemming from rear-end collisions that sparked vehicle fires.

    Ford Police Vehicle Specialist Michael Blackmer remains confident the Crown Victoria will remain the dominant police vehicle. “The Hemi engine will be attractive, but no one knows what that will cost,” he said.

    Blackmer said safety improvements on the Crown Victoria have quelled concerns about fiery crashes that killed officers when the vehicle was struck from behind.

    Ford also has an extra advantage — police departments won’t be eager to retrain technicians and order new parts when they already have large Crown Victoria fleets, Blackmer said.

    Roughly 95 percent of vehicles used by the Michigan State Police are Crown Victorias. The Ford sedan beat the front-wheel drive Dodge Intrepid and Chevrolet Impala in the agency’s annual vehicle test last September, said Sgt. Keith Wilson of the department’s precision driving unit. “It scored better in areas which we weigh highest,” he said, “vehicle performance and size.”

    Dodge Magnum police car rendering

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