The British police fleet market is unique in Europe for one simple reason - it is open to a multiplicity of manufacturers who have a level playing field to procure police business in the 56 United Kingdom police forces and other 999 agencies. That means competition is fierce as manufacturers from the UK, Europe, and Japan tender for the contracts to replace the estimated 4,500 police vehicles that are renewed on an annual basis.
Police fleet managers and officers from the various 999 services opened boots and bonnets, assessed headroom, tried the seats, mulled over performance figures and hammered out prices at this, the largest motor show you've never heard of, the
National Association of Police Fleet Managers (NAPFM) held at the Wroughton Airfield near Swindon, Wiltshire, England.
Once an informal gathering of police fleet managers and a few manufacturers, it is now seen as the place to do police vehicle business - last year alone some 40 firms were left queuing for exhibition space with organizer Mike Cripps and his team from the Wiltshire Constabulary amazed by its continued growth.
The theme for the show, Police Transport for the Future, was an apt one considering the growing constraints that many fleet managers are under as environmental, economic and safety considerations very much dictate the size and make up of their fleets.
The event runs in tandem with a two day session of seminars were the great and the good of the police fleet business sit down to discuss various points of view. Last year's keynote speaker was Professor Garel Rhys from Cardiff University in Wales, a leading pundit on the UK motor industry.
Away from the conference hall, the big talking point was whether the British government Home Office-which dictates the terms and conditions under which police cars can operate-would bite the bullet and decide whether the time has come to specify just three or four manufacturers to supply the vast majority of cars to police fleets for liveried roles. It's a discussion that could severely affect some UK manufacturers who rely on police fleet business, and it all has to do with the Government dictate that value for money must be at the forefront of all decision making.
So, serious business then-but for the time being manufacturers can rest easy. Despite rumors to the contrary, no suppliers lists were drawn up and for the Minister who must make the final decision it'll be a tough call with manufacturers from the UK, Europe, and Japan offering a range of vehicles that are ideal for use in the British police fleet marketplace.
Of course, although the focus is on cars, bikes, and light commercials, there arc many more suppliers present who market everything from vehicle telematics to livery, armor, communications equipment, maintenance facilities - the list covers everything concerned with the purchase, equipping and final disposal of vehicles, usually at specialist auctions held up and down the UK.
As usual, Ford was out in force at the show. With 45% of the market, it is the largest supplier to UK police fleets, boasting the UK's best selling police car, the Focus with its Special Vehicle Preparation department able to take any model from its current range and modify it to police specification.
The company chose the show to preview a number of new concepts including its C Max mini MPV, new Transit Connect light commercial and the Mondeo ST 220, which is good for 140 mph plus.
Ford, under the Premier Automotive Group umbrella, also boast a number of blue chip names in the UK police fleet market including Land Rover and Jaguar along with Swedish manufacturer Volvo.
Both Jaguar and Land Rover have seen a dramatic transformation with Ford's massive capital investment. Their renaissance is gathering momentum with increasing orders for the new Range Rover in 4.4 liter petrol guise which despite only returning around 13 miles to the UK gallon is still seen by many officers as the definitive motorway patrol vehicle. …