Consider this scenario. You're heading down the road and suddenly a police car is hugging your bumper with lights blaring. How did we NOT notice them hiding behind a bush, especially seeing as police tracking app Trapster is a download on the Apple (AAPL) iPhone sitting on the passenger seat! Instantly, a tingling sensation of fear spreads from head to toe, and a wandering mind ensues - an ugly ticket that will cause higher monthly insurance payments is 15 minutes away.
However, unlike in yesteryear when cops would approach wrongdoers with wimpy looking cars that looked like they could be outrun, many police departments are wielding a secret weapon in 2014, a true beast on four wheels: the Ford (F) Interceptor. Not only will the visual appearance of the vehicle, along with its blinding, flashing front bar lights freak you out during a pull over, the vehicle (the Interceptor's competitors are the Dodge Charger from Chrysler and the Caprice from General Motors (GM)) is so visually intimidating that it makes you think twice about passing it doing 5mph over the speed limit on a busy highway. Obviously, this intimidation factor is the main point.
From a police perspective, the Ford Interceptor is their latest tool to keep the U.S. crime rate trending in the right direction, down. According to the latest available FBI data, overall crime fell in the first half of 2013. A couple key statistics:
- Homicides: -7% from 2012
- Violent crimes: -5%
- Burglaries: -8%
I think this imposing vehicle, which also comes in unmarked car form, offers an important clue about the future of law enforcement: preventing crimes by tapping into a car's infotainment system or global positioning via satellite. But, that is a topic for a different day. To learn more on this #RoadBeast that notched an impressive 48% sales increase in 2013 (Ford has 50% market share in police vehicles), and has a model with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that goes from 0-60 in 5.66 seconds (Dodge Charger: 5.69 seconds), I talked with Ford's Police Marketing Manager Jonathan Honeycutt:
No doubt about it, the Ford Interceptor sedan and Crossover are visually (and rightfully so!) intimidating. Take us through the design process on how this eco-friendly beast on four wheels came to life.
"The Next Generation Police Interceptor started being developed roughly three to four years before its inception. We built upon the Police DNA from Crown Victoria of Safe, Durable, Performance, Purpose Built, and Upfit Friendly to make the current Police Interceptors a great choice for Police Agencies. We also obtained feedback from our Police Advisory Board throughout the whole design process."
When sitting down with police departments, what do you and your team hear from them regarding new needs for fighting crime in 2014 relative to when they purchased a Crown Victoria 5-10 years ago?
"Police Agencies' needs for Police still gear around vehicles that are safe, durable, performance oriented, purpose built, and Upfit friendly. Ford provides Police Interceptors that meet these needs with attributes such as 75mph rear crash, standard Full-Time All-Wheel Drive, and our powerful and efficient EcoBoost engines."
I am curious on what you have seen from an aftermarket parts perspective for the Interceptor. What types of fun equipment add-ons, say mobile tech based, are departments undertaking following delivery of an entirely new fleet?
"Each agency is unique in the equipment they decide to put on vehicles, but agencies have many different lighting options, partitions in the vehicles, cameras facing forward and rear, systems that detect if a person is approaching the police vehicle if an officer is idling working on something, embedded screen, and much more."
About how many Crown Victoria police cars would you estimate are still in service? I suspect there could be a boom in demand for the Interceptor over the next five years as Crown Victoria's reach their useless life.
"I would estimate over 200,000 Crown Victoria Police Interceptors are still in operation. They will be rotating out of service as the agencies replacement them with new Police Interceptors. The law enforcement market is still recovering from the recession."
Around the Horn
The Interceptor unmarked car definitely caught my eye on the Web site (luckily not on the road!), and I am interested how sales of that model have been relative to the badged Interceptors.
"Sales of Police Interceptors were up 48% in 2013 (according to RL Polk Registration Data), while also gaining 9 points of market share in 2013."
I would venture a guess that testing is very rigorous for the Interceptor, how does it differ relative to standard testing for the typical Ford model found in dealer showrooms? For example, are police personnel actively involved in the process?
"Police Interceptors are subjected to two times durability testing, which means they go through twice the amount of testing as a regular vehicle due to the extreme conditions in which they are used. Each of our Police Interceptors are evaluated and tested by Michigan State Police and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and are classified as 'Pursuit Rated' once they pass the testing."
It's now 2018, how will have the Interceptor evolved from the 2014 model? For instance, will the police have capabilities to connect to info-tainment systems found in Ford models? Car to car connection, in my opinion, is right around the bend and may be beneficial to the police to keep people safe on the roads.
"We know that officers spend many hours a day in their vehicles. So, we will continue to build upon our Police DNA of Safe, Durable, Performance, Purpose Built and Upfit Friendly for future models to incorporate features and technologies that build upon this DNA."
-- By Brian Sozzi CEO of Belus Capital Advisors, analyst to TheStreet.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.