DURHAM, N.C. -- Dodge says it can fill orders for 2006 Charger police cars quickly because the vehicles can be built one at a time rather than in batches.
Depending on price, that assembly method could give Dodge a sales edge. Production begins in the fourth quarter.
"We won't build the cars in batch form," said Craig Love, vice president of Chrysler's rear-wheel-drive product team. That's because police
versions will not differ significantly from upscale Chargers.
Both Ford Motor Co. and General Motors generally produce police cars in batches because their assembly involves enhancing the structure to handle potholes and curbs.
As a result, law enforcement agencies sometimes must wait several months for new cruisers.
But at Chrysler, "We can flow them right into the process," Love said at a Charger event here. The automaker can speed assembly because the Charger's structure and engine cradle do not require changes for police work.
"It is already pretty heavy-duty," Love said.
The pursuit package is basically identical to the stock R/T performance package for the Daytona, he said, adding that the engine cradle already handles the Hemi's torque load.
Will that produce a rear-wheel-drive police car as tough as the GM and Ford versions? Some answers will be provided this fall, when the Michigan State Police evaluates pursuit vehicles.
Sales of vehicles engineered for police pursuit range from 60,000 to 70,000 annually - and considerably less when the economy sours, industry sources say. The Ford Interceptor, which is based on the Crown Victoria, and the Chevrolet Impala have been the main players in the police car market.
In recent years, Ford has been selling 50,000 to 55,000 pursuit vehicles annually and Chevrolet has been selling 10,000 to 15,000.
Chrysler group executives would not provide a Charger sales goal.
Two engines are available with the police pursuit package: the 340-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and the 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Dodge claims 0-to-60 mph acceleration in about 6 seconds for the Hemi V-8 and a top speed exceeding 140 mph.
Dodge also offers the Magnum with a police package, but that vehicle is not offered with an equipment package for high-speed pursuits.
Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler group executive vice president of global sales and marketing, said the automaker is encouraging dealerships to contact local law enforcement agencies: "We are working with our dealers a lot more than we did in the past. We are certainly looking for our dealers to support and help us with this effort."
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