Dyer Consequences: Carbon Motors Police Car

Why does the coolest new car company have to build cop cars?

I like to root for the dreamers in the car business, the visionaries who question the status quo and forge ahead with bold ideas, damn the odds of success. History is littered with companies that took chances with crazy design, technology, or business plans - Tucker, De Lorean . . .uh . . .; Saturn. They didn't make it, but I'm glad they tried. Carbon Motors, would-be maker of a car called the E7, seeks to carve out its niche with a product that can fairly be called revolutionary. Unfortunately, I can't bring myself to cheer for its success, because the E7 is a machine that occupies a distinctly negative corner of my psyche. The E7 is a cop car.

Police cars have a long history as modified production vehicles. Recall Elwood Blues's explanation of his Dodge Monaco - "It's got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch 'plant. It's got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks." To this day, police departments rely on beefed-up versions of cars that are available to the general public, primarily the Dodge Charger, the Chevy Impala, and the Ford Crown Victoria. Carbon Motors seeks to shake up the cop-car hierarchy by building a machine that is explicitly intended for police duty - a car with cop everything. And it won't be sold to the public.

On paper, the E7 is superior to current offerings. With a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbo-diesel and a six-speed automatic, it should be nearly as quick as a Charger with fuel economy more in line with a V-6 Impala. The aluminum-spaceframe chassis features rear clamshell doors that make it easier to load the perps in the back. The lights and the push bar are integrated into the bodywork, which makes for better aerodynamics and a distinctively mean look. If you're looking for comparisons to the E7, you could say that it has an engine like a BMW 335d (but with 35 more hp) and a chassis like a Rolls-Royce Phantom (the only other aluminum-spaceframe, clamshell four-door I can think of). The logical person would conclude that this technology would result in a vehicle substantially more expensive than a Crown Vic, which is made of cast iron, burlap, and nails.

Not so, says Carbon, which claims that the "target is to ensure that the initial purchase price of Carbon's purpose-built vehicle will be comparable to what law enforcement agencies are currently paying for a retail vehicle and aftermarket equipment combined. The total cost of ownership is where agencies stand to save a generous sum of money due to the E7's superior engineering, durability, and efficiency." So I think Carbon is saying the E7 will cost more up front but will actually save money in the long term. I believe half of that.

The E7 is engineered for a 250,000-mile life cycle, at the end of which it's taken off the road and recycled. At 250,000 miles, Crown Vic maintenance calls for a new piece of electrical tape over the check-engine light, three Vanillaroma air fresheners, and an inspection of the rear seatbelts to ensure that they're buried beneath the pee-stained vinyl seat. I once talked to a cabbie about the London Cab Company, which, like Carbon Motors, was trying to beat Ford at its own game with a superior product. "Why would I pay more money for something that's going to be harder to fix?" he said.

Good question, and one I would pose to the police departments salivating over the E7. Surely, the E7 is a better police car than a Crown Vic (I maintain that nothing is more badass than a Hemi Charger cop car), but to what end? It doesn't have bulletproof glass. It's not going to get to a crime scene any faster. And, because it won't be sold to the general public, it can't be used as an unmarked car. With budgets hurting everywhere, what police department is going to say, "You know, we'd rather have E7s than another officer on the street"?

If it seems like I'm trashing a spunky little startup and praising the incumbent leviathans, then I plead guilty. Simply put, I think the E7 is overkill. And I don't want my tax money going toward a piece of equipment that will primarily be used to pull me over the moment I venture 12 mph over the speed limit.

But here's my challenge for Carbon Motors: if you can really build this fast, cool-looking, suicide-door diesel sedan for the cost of a police-issue Crown Vic, then you'll do bang-up business selling a civilian version. That's basically all the 1990s Impala SS was - a civilian police car. And if you're selling the modern incarnation of that Impala SS, then that's a business plan I can get behind. Now get going.

Written by: Ezra Dyer Illustration by: Tim Marrs

I can tell this article was written by someone who has never put on a badge. I've been an officer in Texas for 19 years and I'm glad to see someone making something specifically for officers. We, like our military, put our lives on the line everyday. Would you take mission specific weapons away from military personel because no one can fix it yet? The vehicle will not only save tax payers dollars in operation, but will keep officers safer while they transport offenders. This is a win win for everyone. Insead of challenging Carbon to make this for the public, challenge Ford, Chevy and Chrystler to make something that compares.
Ezra has made some very good points. This is not the first time a "Bat Man" vehicle has tried to enter the Law Enforcement fleet. A company called Cruisers in Michigan backed by a millions of capital and automotive experts tried this exact concept about 20 years ago. Failure. Who will service these vehicles? Who will repair the wrecks? Not the in place police equipment install shops. Big mistake not buying a vehicle that can be resold to the Public or Taxi industry. 250000 miles is Balogna. Don't be a fool and think this comic book concept will work. The CEO of this Condom Motor Company is scary. Our Government is stupid enough to fund this mistake during difficult times. Asking any cop if they would like to have one is like asking any women if she would like a bigger diamond. They claim they have orders for 10,000 of these vehicles and won't disclose any more information. What does that tell us.
Every since the moment I saw the E7 I have been a big fan. I mean I think it this kind of out of the box thinking that America needs. I do however agree that it sucks that the coolest thing to come out of the American auto industry would not be available for the general public and with saying that I would definitely be on board for a civilian version of this car. I think it has great style and would obviously be powerful and would love to have one.
Hmmmm....some very good valid points are made here. Yea I can see police officers being happy that they got a new car for themselves only but the cost to keep them running might outdo the advantage og owning them. Personally I think they should just stick to the Crown Vic. It's a classis car that if upgraded can be one hell of a car.

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