The ACT Policing road safety operations team will switch from Australian-made Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons to imported, turbocharged VW Passat station wagons in 2019.
The switch to the six black German wagons for the high-profile Canberra police fleet is a notable shift away from the type of vehicles police have been using in the ACT for decades, and is a dramatically different choice of vehicle to that of police in neighbouring NSW.
The NSW Highway Patrol last year switched from Australian-made V8 Falcons and Commodores to imported Chrysler 300s and BMW 520 turbo-diesel sedans. Other police jurisdictions such as Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia are switching to the twin-turbo Korean-made Kia Stinger four-door sedan.
The decision by police across the country to switch to imported cars follows the federal government's decision not to support domestic car manufacturing.
As a result, Ford Australia stopped local car production in late 2016. Toyota and Holden, the two remaining domestic car makers, closed their factory doors a year later.
Government fleet purchasing requirements had been structured to favour and support Australian-made cars. In particular, the V8 SS Commodore and Falcon XR8 sedans were overwhelmingly favoured by traffic and highway patrol police fleets around the country due to their low purchase cost, size, performance, fit-for-purpose "police pack" specifications and durability.
The ACT road safety team's switch to the high-powered, all-wheel-drive premium Passats will occur ahead of a gradual fleet changeover to fully imported cars for Canberra's general duties police fleet in 2019.
The Commodores and Falcons that make up the current ACT fleet will be gradually decommissioned. Their police radios, warning lights and sirens will be removed and they will be sold at auction.
The new high-performance Passats will be showcase cars for Canberra's police. They will each feature a low-profile roof light bar, heavily tinted windows, alloy wheels and bold new reflective side and bonnet graphics for maximum public recognition and visual effect.
The six cars will be equipped with automated number-plate recognition, which scans and detects the plates of unregistered or stolen cars, and will carry a full suite of operational equipment such as deployable road spikes, traffic cones and roadside breath-testing apparatus.
Customised number plates bearing catchy messages such as SPDKILLS, NORUSH and SLWDOWN will be used on the new Passats to replace the current RDSAFE team plates.
The police wagons will be in Volkswagen's premium R-Line sports specification. This provides bigger brakes, on-demand all-wheel drive, plus a 206kW turbocharged engine and seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Many police jurisdictions in Germany use the Passat wagon for their general duties vehicles, but in plug-in hybrid form, which allows them to switch to electric power for short distance journeys.
Electric cars were seen as unsuitable for police mobile patrols in the ACT because the lengthy time needed to recharge their batteries would keep them off the road for too long. Uncertainty around the range that would be achieved with each battery charge was also a factor.
While a final decision is yet to be made on the replacements for the ACT general duties Commodores and Falcons in 2019, the favoured fleet vehicle choice is understood to be all-wheel-drive Subaru Liberty wagons, with Outback wagons for the sergeants.
The ACT police fleet changeover comes as Comcar's national operations arm is trialling a range of luxury imported sedans to replace its ageing fleet of Australian-made, chauffeur-driven Holden Caprices. Sydney and Melbourne have been chosen for the trial.
Comcar's trial will include BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz luxury cars supplied free for two months from the participating car companies in order to win the coveted business.
Politicians who travel in the trial cars, mostly in the back seats, will be asked to provide feedback on each vehicle to assist in the final fleet selection choice by the Department of Finance.