CROWN VICS: Safety concerns deserved better response from Ford

DETROIT FREE PRESS
Editorial - December 9, 2003

Ford Motor Co. did not do right by its customers in its initial response to deadly fires in Crown Victoria police cars. As reported in Monday and today's Free Press, Ford appears to have spent more energy trying to convince police agencies and government regulators that there was no problem with the cars than in addressing the genuine fears of police using them.

Those fears were so significant, the Arizona Department of Public Safety tried to jury-rig its own safety gear onto police Crown Vics to stop their rear-mounted gas tanks from rupturing into flames on impact. The fact that customers felt compelled to undertake their own safety modifications of a product speaks volumes about the kind of response law enforcement agencies thought they were getting from Ford.

Even in the middle of its Firestone tire disaster, Ford should have been big enough to do better by these loyal and highly visible Crown Vic users. Eighty-five percent of the police vehicles on the road in the United States are Crown Vics. Detroit police just ordered 50 new ones.

Officers like the room, handling, power and durability of the car. But since the 1980s, at least 18 police officers have been killed in Crown Vics that burst into flames after being hit from behind at high speed. Counting civilian vehicles built on the same platform, with gas tanks mounted behind the rear axle, the Free Press found 30 such deaths from 1992-2001.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found no manufacturing defects in the cars. But that doesn't let Ford off the hook, which the company has, in effect, acknowledged by finally doing some of its own modifications.

Police have plenty to worry about in their daily patrols of our unpredictable society. They deserved better response from Ford about the safety of their patrol cars.