UP TO 40,000 Chevrolet-badged Commodore police vehicles could be exported to the US annually in a deal that would eclipse GM Holden’s current North American export program, which was axed along with the Pontiac brand by General Motors last night.
GoAuto has learned that a plan to supply hi-tech Australian-made patrol cars to US law enforcement agencies – led by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) – could be joined by lucrative police vehicle exports to Canada, the UK and the Middle East.
And while the prospects of reviving plans to sell the Holden Ute in the US as a GMC continue to exist, it is understood the now-defunct Commodore-based Pontiac G8 has a good chance of morphing into a full-time Chevrolet model for US public consumption.
In an ironic twist, if green-lighted, the police project could see Holden’s Commodore effectively replace Ford’s aged Crown Victoria as the vehicle of choice for many US police departments, which require large, V8-powered rear-drive sedans.
The Crown Victoria, which was discontinued from public sale in 2008 and will be phased out of production for US fleet customers next year, has long been touted as Ford Australia’s most obvious US export opportunity for the Falcon.
Some US police departments have already adopted Dodge’s new Charger, but the Crown Victoria still attracts 60,000 annual sales for Ford, representing a potentially massive export opportunity for Holden.
Officially, Holden remains cautious about spruiking the prospects of sending Commodores to the US as part of a police vehicle export program, but national media relations manager Scott Whiffin admitted to GoAuto this week that a Pontiac G8-based LAPD prototype produced by Port Melbourne-based National Safety Agency (NSA) has “enormous” potential.
“That’s certainly something that is being looked at very closely,” Mr Whiffin revealed. “We are looking at all opportunities.
“Holden has a really good reputation for seeking out opportunities in the marketplace and benefiting from them, and our work starts now in terms of finding new opportunities for this vehicle.
“The law enforcement opportunity is one and certainly we’re looking at that without going too far too fast.”
NSA operations director Des Bahr, who will next week present his company’s LAPD Prototype Vehicle concept to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was more forthcoming about the project, which has also received interest from law enforcement groups in the UK, Middle East and Asia.
The left-hand drive Pontiac police car, which was jointly developed by the NSA and the LAPD – which is believed to be highly enthusiastic about the project – was launched by the LAPD’s deputy chief Charles Beck at the 2009 APCO Australasia Conference & Exhibition, held at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney over March 2-4.
Mr Bahr said his company was in talks with nine separate US law enforcement jurisdictions, which together represent a fleet of up to 40,000 vehicles a year.
“The potential is enormous, given that we’ve got nine jurisdictions interested and even that alone is tens of thousands of cars,” Mr Bahr told GoAuto this week. “They are interested in the project to determine whether this, which could be deemed as a replacement for the Crown Victoria, is suitable for their environment.
“We’re talking in the vicinity of 30,000 to 40,000 cars annually or at least every couple of years based on the kilometres they do.
“We’re only in the early stages, but apart from the US there has been interest in the UK and Canada. We’re due to fly to the US next week to present to some interested groups in Canada, so it’s gaining a lot of momentum over there.”
Mr Bahr said interest in the vehicle had also come from the Middle East as late as last week.
“That’s in the early stages of understanding what we’re doing with the project to determine whether the Asia region could piggyback off that as well, so there’s literally huge potential,” he said.
Mr Bahr said two examples of the LAPD Pontiac G8 would be sent to the US for testing by mid-year.
Mr Bahr said that while he was awaiting official confirmation from Holden in relation to how the project could be affected by GM’s latest restructuring announcement, the LAPD project vehicle’s presentation to law enforcement groups globally would not be affected.
“This is an NSA project,” he said. “We’ve just chosen the GM platform to display what we’re producing at our end, so there are a couple of components: the car itself as a patrol vehicle and an extension of that is the integrated technology that we’re proposing to put into the vehicle.
“We’ve chosen the G8 platform on which to build the vehicle given that a lot of the earlier research was done on the Commodore platform.
“It was easy to adopt that research and technology onto the same car which is accepted in the US market, so it’s through a working relationship we have with LAPD and we brought GM into that to participate.”
He said the vehicle could be modified locally by Australian suppliers for export as a turn-key product.contined on next page(continued on next pag