The iconic Ford Crown Victoria squad car, which has remained relatively unchanged since its introduction in 1992, will stop production late this year and be replaced by Ford’s new line of Police Interceptors. The automaker says the new model, based on the Taurus, will be more fuel efficient, safer and come with more horsepower under the hood.

Although many police departments are welcoming the development of next-gen police cars, in these lean budget times some police chiefs might have to wait a little longer to purchase new vehicles. That could mean getting some extra time out of the old Crown Vics or even stocking up on them.

Police departments in South Carolina are purchasing Crown Victorias before time runs out — Mount Pleasant is getting 25, Charleston police ordered 35 and North Charleston's department plans to get 40, reported The Post and Courier. "It's a legend going down," North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey told the newspaper. And Mount Pleasant Town Administrator Eric DeMoura referred to the cars as tanks.

The discontinuation could also mean more business for some auto body shops and used car sellers. Wild Rose Motors in Fullerton, Calif., primarily sells the “legacy” Crown Victoria Police Interceptors. About 70 percent of the company’s business comes from police departments and other law enforcement agencies.

Seton Montgomerie, the dealership’s part-owner, said business has been booming since Ford announced its next-gen squad car. Many police agencies with reduced budgets want to get their hands on a couple of Montgomerie’s $10,000 Crown Vics. (A price point for the next-gen cars has not yet been announced.)

Montgomerie said he’s a die-hard fan of the Crown Victoria and wouldn’t drive anything else. “The new cars are lighter and not as heavy duty as the old model,” Montgomerie said. “We’re hoping for a miracle and they release a comparable model to replace the Crown Vic.”

Lisa Teed, Ford’s marketing manager for the new Police Interceptor, said Montgomerie shouldn’t wait for any miracles. “This is the replacement,” Teed said. “We understand the concerns of the law enforcement agencies, and we’re giving them what they’re asking for.”

The new sedan, based on Ford’s Taurus, will be offered in a front-wheel drive 3.5 liter, 263-horsepower V-6 model and an all-wheel drive 3.5 liter V-6 twin turbo model with 365 horsepower. By comparison, the older, rear-wheel Crown Victorias were typically fitted with a 250-horsepower V-8 engine.

According to Ford, the new models also boast 20 percent greater fuel efficiency, an all-wheel drive option, police gear integration, and a rear-end crash test rating that will meet or exceed the Crown Victoria’s 75-mph rating.

All of the concerns harbored by Crown Victoria fans are being addressed with the new lineup, Teed said. The new models may look smaller, but the interior volume is equivalent. And while some swear by aesthetics of the “body-on-frame” design, Teed said the general appearance of a vehicle after a crash isn’t necessarily indicative of how safe it is.

In addition to traditional safety features such as larger brakes and side-curtain airbags, the new vehicles include a hands-free information system that will allow officers to operate communications equipment by voice control. The vehicles also have radar sensors to detect cross-traffic, a color rear-view camera system and an alert system that notifies the driver with a light on the rear-view mirror when something enters the vehicle’s blind spot.

Despite these improvements, Montgomerie thinks Ford is making a mistake by moving away from the Crown Vic. “Chevy did the same thing 16 years ago and they lost their share of the market,” Montgomerie said. “Everyone knows what a police car looks like. It’s subliminal marketing for Ford. I don’t know why they want to take that away.”

Change is never easy for anyone, Teed said.

“But emergency vehicle drivers have personally told me these [new] vehicles require less effort to drive,” she said. Despite nearly 20 years of service from the Crown Victoria, Teed predicts an easy transition into the new age of police vehicles.

Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com