“From this point on we will have the Dodge Chargers,” said Lt. Ramone Lamkin, of the road patrol. “It’s a much sleeker car.”
Lamkin, who was accustomed to the Dodge from his time with the Georgia State Patrol, said changing models came down to a vote among command staff.
After Ford announced it would no longer build the Crown Victoria after 2011, agencies were forced to decide between the replacement Ford, a Dodge Charger or a Chevrolet Caprice. After months of consideration and test driving the models, the staff went with the Ford model. The 34 cars began arriving last summer.
Lamkin said the Ford was a “decent car” with no major issues, but the staff felt the Dodge was a better performer.
“The last command staff had their choice, and we have ours,” he said. “We wanted to put our stamp on things.”
The cars will be solid silver instead of the county’s traditional black and silver. Fleet Manager Ron Crowden said the solid silver is cheaper than a two-tone paint job.
One Dodge with the new paint scheme and design is already on Richmond County roads as a “demo.”
The primary complaint about the Ford after about seven months is that the driver’s door opens only 23.5 inches. Crowden said officers complained about not being able to get out as quickly with equipment on their belts, which would snag in the tight space. The Charger door opens 44 inches.
Staff said in 2011 that the Ford was chosen for its fuel efficiency and price. However, upon further examination, Crowden said, the differences aren’t that dramatic.
The sheriff’s office paid $30,342 for a fully-outfitted Ford. Bids returned this year price a fully-outfitted Charger for the road patrol at $28,860 and a traffic car at $29,134. Estimated mileage is fairly close, with the Charger getting about two miles per gallon more than the Ford.
“I do have some concerns about the Dodge,” Crowden said. “I don’t have actual practical experience with it as a fleet car.”
The sheriff’s office has ordered 30 Chargers for the upcoming fiscal year along with Chevrolet Impalas for investigators, Honda motorcycles and Tahoes for inmate transport.
Crowden said the Tahoes will solve the problem left when Ford dropped the Crown Victoria. That car could transport three prisoners, but the new Ford and Dodge models can carry only two.
“I think Ford made a bad decision when they decided to do away with the Crown Victoria,” he said.