Crown Vic orders suspended
Louisiana stops purchases, cites gas tank explosions
By Jeff Plungis / Detroit News Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Louisiana's attorney general issued Thursday a moratorium on purchases of the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor by the state until Ford Motor Co. can guarantee the vehicle will not burst into flames when involved in collisions.
Louisiana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub cited two recent deaths in explaining his decision: the Oct. 23, 2002, death of Dallas police officer Thomas Metzler and a Dec. 20 crash that killed New York State Trooper Robert Ambrose.
In both crashes, the police cruisers were rear-ended, and the vehicles caught fire. Thirteen police officers have died in Crown Victoria-related fires since 1992.
"What is particularly disturbing, in virtually each accident in which an officer died, the officer would have otherwise survived the accident, but was burned to death," Ieyoub said.
The move by Louisiana's top law enforcement official is the latest sign of trouble for Ford and the Crown Victoria.
Police departments in nine states have filed lawsuits contending the location of the vehicle's gas tank behind the rear axle makes it prone to rupture and explode.
In September, Ford said it would ship protective shields to police departments that wanted them. The shield is designed to fit between the gas tank and the rear axle to help prevent a puncture during a high-speed crash.
As of Thursday, Ford had received orders for 193,150 shields and had shipped 189,062 units.
Demand for the shields has slowed enough that Ford will offer them to the general public for the first time beginning Saturday.
"We don't anticipate many average drivers will want them, because they are not going to be involved in high-speed chases," Ford spokeswoman Carolyn Brown said.
Ieyoub said the fix Ford is offering was inadequate because it has not been independently tested. The shield would not have prevented the tank from disrupting during the Metzler crash, he said.
Ford has been responding to questions about the safety of the Crown Victoria since a string of deadly crashes began in 1999.
Ford controls 85 percent of the police cruiser market, selling about 58,000 a year. It estimates there are 350,000 Crown Victoria Police Interceptors in service.
"Unfortunately, there is not a vehicle made by any manufacturer that can withstand an accident at 75 mph," Ford's Brown said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed an investigation on the Crown Victoria in October, saying the vehicle met federal safety standards and there was no evidence of a defect.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....