Ford Stands By Its Car

DETROIT FREE PRESS
December 8, 2003

The Free Press met with Ford Motor Co. representatives Oct. 30to discuss the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor's safety record. Following are excerpts from comments made by Sue Cischke, vice president for environmental and safety engineering at Ford.

PEOPLE HAVE DIED in every vehicle out there. There's not a nameplate vehicle out there that people haven't died in, but does that make it an issue?

HERE'S A VEHICLE that's been out there from 1992 to 2003 -- 350,000 of them, we believe, on the road. And again, they are driving in many cases three shifts a day. They are going to be exposed. . . . This is really frustrating to me because deaths occur every year on the road, and we're not appalled as a country that we could be saving so many people if they would just wear their seat belts and not drive drunk. That doesn't seem to energize anybody.

PEOPLE HAVE SAID that tank location is a factor. . . . The attributes of the vehicle are part of the design of the vehicle. In order to provide rear-wheel drive and body-on-frame -- which is very durable construction -- to provide this live axle, we put the tank in that spot. But we feel it's a very well-protected spot from a side impact. . . . It's protected by the frame rails, and it's protected by the wheels. By the way, it has a huge trunk that has a lot of crush (room) in the back as well.

I CAN TELL YOU that I think the Crown Vic is a very safe vehicle, and the data that's out there proves that. And the hundreds of incidents that we get, letters I get from police officers saying, 'This vehicle saved my life.' We're proud of this vehicle.

REGARDING THE SHIELDS, the upgrade kit, we know this is a safe car. The data show it. We also recognize that the police are exposed to unique risks. If we have a situation where we can add these shields and give them additional protection in a 75 m.p.h. crash, I can't tell you that's always going to be effective. I don't think there's any manufacturer that can eliminate the risk of having a fuel leak. We're trying to improve the situation.

If you think trying to improve a product makes it defective, I can ask you, are all the vehicles that were ever sold without air bags defective? Are all the vehicles that have ever been in an accident defective? The answer is no.

IF YOU DRIVE OUT along the road, every police officer has their own way of doing things, but we know there are better ways of doing things. We've encouraged state legislatures to pass move-over laws to protect officers. We've asked: Is there a way to make pull-over areas to protect them? Do they really need to be using their vehicle as a construction site blocker when there's equipment today that is far better for that? . . . And we recognize that no manufacturer can eliminate the potential for a leak in a very high-speed, high-energy crash. We're trying to push the technology even further by looking into fire suppression (for the 2005 Police Interceptor), which we announced in August.

SHOULD WE BE in the police car business? When you look at the hazardous nature of duty the police have, it's a tough business to be in. They're using their vehicles around the clock, very heavy-duty, running over curbs and things in a very tough environment. With all that we've done and all that we are doing in terms of technology, we may say this isn't a good business for us to be in. When we've mentioned that to some of the police, they feel very sad about that because they feel this is a great car. If you talk to folks, the people who write to me, they can tell you lots of great stories about how great the Crown Vic is. It would be a real shame if they didn't have that as part of the equipment to do their job. We're just trying to provide them with part of that equipment. It doesn't mean that we'll be in this business forever. We have to look at it as a business situation and indicate that, at some point in time, we may not be in this market.