Ford Plans Special Interceptor Intros at Chicago Auto Show

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Ford will unveil the two-model Interceptor line Saturday at the Chicago Auto Show. The two models are based on the Taurus (a sedan) and the Explorer (an SUV).

As the auto show calendar starts to wind down, there are still two major shows ahead, the Chicago exhibition and the Los Angeles car show. The Chicago show marks the end of the 2015 debut cycle while Los Angeles marks the beginning of 2016. At both shows, the auto industry shows off its newest wares.

The Chicago Auto Show kicks off Saturday. At the show, many debuts are planned.

For example, Ford has announced plans to introduce the replacements for its famed Police Interceptor package, based on the now-discontinued Crown Victoria. For police departments all over the country, the Crown Vic/Interceptor was the gold standard. It set the mark that other automakers had to shoot for. Most of them, it seems, never did make the grade as Ford has dominated the police market for years.

Indeed, says USA Today, the Interceptor was the standard vehicle for local and state police forces across the nation. Because the vehicle was ruggedly built and could withstand punishment that would leave other vehicles broken in the median, police departments raved about it. They also loved its handling and sheer power as the Interceptors were routinely equipped with the famed 454 Interceptor V-8 engine.

This engine was for years responsible for hauling down speeders as it could easily hit 130 and keep up that pace for mile after mile. And, after many miles of chasing, the Interceptor still had enough left in reserve to chase down fleeing vehicles to the finish allowing policemen to arrest the bad guys.

Now, with the former Crown Vic gone, Ford was apparently worried that it would not meet the expectations of police departments. The automaker needed have worried, though, as the pair of Interceptor replacements has received the blessing of the highly influential California Highway Patrol.

With CHP buy-in, the new Interceptor replacements – there are two – are likely to become the “standard police cars” of the future. It may seem that the new Interceptors are simply fulfilling their tradition destinies as the “standards,” however, there is more. More important than tradition is Ford’s need of the police business. Ford has had a lock on the police market for many years. It is a highly visible market that associates the automaker’s name with a very positive image. You just can’t put a dollar value on the amount of goodwill the “Police Interceptor” generates. It is huge which is likely why Ford is so anxious to keep the business.

As part of its fleet account business, police vehicles are not really big moneymakers. The margin on them is small. Since, however, the line of business is stable, it can be counted on as a regular contribution to the corporate balance sheet, so it is important to the automaker.

According to pre-auto show reports, the Interceptor line for 2015 will be made up of a sedan and a sports utility vehicle. From the information available now, it looks like the new Interceptor SUV will be based on the wholly restyled Explorer. The updated SUV went on sale in the fall. The new sedan will be based on the Taurus platform. The Crown Victoria platform is no longer produced as it relies on older technologies.

Meanwhile, Toyota is planning three major introductions at the Chicago show. First, its flagship, the Avalon receives a freshened look. The aggressive lines are complemented by a large air intake at the front of the vehicle. Like the rest of the Toyota lineup, the new intake and blacked out grille give the Avalon a very aggressive stance. The Avalon was last updated two years ago. At this point in its product cycle, the next major updating will likely be in two to three years.

Also, Toyota will be introducing special editions of its popular Camry and Corolla lines. The Camry SE (Special Edition) features new 18-inch wheels, interior accents that are unique to this model and an upgraded audio system. The Camry SE will be powered by a 2.5-liter four that is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Toyota will manufacture only 12,000 Special Editions from August to January. The Corolla SE features contrasting 17-inch alloy wheels and specialized interior accents that are, like the Camry, unique to the Corolla. The Corolla SE also features an upgraded audio system and a moonroof.

The Toyota entries are among 47 product announcements planned for the Chicago show. Many of the models that are to be introduced at the show that begins at the end of this week have already been debuted at the recently held Detroit Auto Show.

Chevrolet, for example, plans to introduce its updated Equinox mid-sized SUV. Subaru is also planning to introduce its updated Legacy.

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Marc Stern has spent more than 40 years in and around cars. His work has included answering motorist questions, motor vehicle reviews and evaluation and writing dealers, consumer and industry news pieces. In addition, Mr. Stern has contributed to well-known automotive publications including Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek and Old Cars Weekly, among others.

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