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Delays continue for production, delivery of police vehicles in Northern Colorado & across the U.S.

Delays continue for production, delivery of police vehicles
Delays continue for production, delivery of police vehicles 04:00

A backlog of orders rooted in production delays from COVID-19 in 2020 continues to plague production and delivery of police vehicles across the United States. Stellantis, GM and Ford, the largest producers of police-rated vehicles, have all been battling delays and cancellations for nearly three years.


 The delays first started in late 2020, when COVID-19 was causing delays in deliveries of critical parts and technologies like chips. That seemed to start a snowball effect when it came to production, one which the companies have struggled to bounce back from in the years to follow.

"The pandemic brought it all to a halt. People stopped manufacturing," said Jacob Rector, Senior Buyer for the City of Fort Collins.

Since the delays in production started Ford, GM and Stellantis have largely recovered in their production of vehicles for civilians, but the same cannot be said for police fleet vehicles.

"There is a lot more money to be made with the vehicles that have the upfits, sunroofs, heated steering wheels and different navigation screens," Rector told CBS News Colorado's Dillon Thomas.

Thomas reached out to more than a dozen police agencies across Colorado, from Larimer County to El Paso County. All of the agencies reached, except for one, said they were still waiting on orders from years ago to be delivered. Some have even been told their orders will never be fulfilled.

"We've had several orders cancelled over the last couple years," said Chris Melvin, Fleet Sgt. for Larimer County Sheriff's Office.

The backlog of orders has become so significant that most police agencies across the United States are having difficulties obtaining the law enforcement vehicles they need.

"This is an issue that is impacting fleet orders across the entire nation right now," said Brandon Barnes, officer and spokesperson for Fort Collins Police Services, which serves the fourth largest city in Colorado.

"We are all vying for the same small piece of the pie," Melvin said.

Fort Collins Police is still waiting on dozens of vehicles to be delivered, only receiving a small portion of that which they ordered.

Before the pandemic Fort Collins Police Services typically received 30 new police vehicles a year. Meaning, since the delays began, the agency normally would have received around 70-to-75 new police vehicles.

"In the last two and a half years we have gotten about 15 new police vehicles in," Barnes said. "We have 55 Ford police interceptors that we are waiting to come in."

At the Larimer County Sheriff's Office the agency orders a wide range of vehicle makes and models. Because they cover such rugged terrain and a wide range of landscapes, deputies drive different vehicle types depending on their assignment. Some drive Dodge Ram trucks, others drive Dodge Chargers or Chevy Tahoes.

"I've got 34 vehicles that rapidly need to be replaced," Melvin said.


Many may wonder if the agencies can combat the delays by simply fixing the current fleet to extend the lifetime of the vehicles. The answer, in short, is yes. But, that only serves as a patch to the problem, not a permanent fix.

"We have higher operating costs," Rector said. "You get seats that wear out, you have engines and transmissions (that need to be fixed), extra tire and brake costs."

However, that temporary solution is not going to be able to work much longer, as vehicles that are driven heavily throughout the week rapidly decline in performance.

"Parts are becoming more and more problematic. We have seen an uptick in that with the ongoing United Auto Workers strikes that are now effecting not only production of new vehicles, but parts as well," Melvin said. "Availability is down. Prices are up. Parts are down. It is the perfect storm."

Police vehicles age much more rapidly than most civilian vehicles.

Not only are they driven more aggressively with rapid acceleration, stops, swerving and more, but they also are regularly left on when an officer is on duty.

Many may not realize that, in order to keep lights and computers operating, police vehicles are left idling throughout an officer's entire shift.

"That idle time adds wear and tear to the vehicle. If you take a 100,000-mile vehicle, you are probably at 250,000 miles at engine idle time alone," Rector said.

Police vehicles with at least 100,000 miles are estimated to be running more closely with a civilian vehicle that has more than 350,000 miles on it.

As police agencies wait for GM, Stellantis and Ford to catch up with orders, more and more vehicles are operating at abnormally high mileage.

"Right now we are sitting at about 15-to-20% of our fleet is at over 100,000 miles," Rector said. "Cops are in cars longer than they should be."

Both LCSO and FCPS said they are stretching their vehicles longer than they typically would, while also making sure a vehicle that is dangerous does not end up on the streets. LCSO said they have ended up having to scrap vehicles in order to keep others running.

CBS News Colorado reached out to Ford, Stellantis and GM for interviews on this report.

Ford never responded to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for GM issued a written statement which never addressed the causes or extent of the delays when it came to their production of police vehicles. However, the manufacturer took time to boast of their increased demand for production.

"Demand is very high for GM fleet vehicles including the Tahoe PPV (Police Package Vehicle), Tahoe SSV (Special Service Vehicle), Silverado PPV and Silverado SSV. In early 2024, we are introducing the Blazer EV PPV, Chevy's first all-electric Blazer police vehicle designed to be pursuit-rated," the statement read in-part.

A spokesperson for Stellantis issued a written statement acknowledging the delays, also noting that the company has ramped up production of some police vehicles.

"The Company has navigated logistical hurdles including production disruptions on key models, including parts and materials shortages throughout the past year, and we're seeing resolution in those areas. Overall, our law enforcement business remains strong, with Charger Pursuit and Durango Pursuit shipments up 123% and 166%, respectively, through the 3rd quarter of 2023," a spokesperson wrote.

LCSO and FCPS both said they were used to waiting several months for police vehicles to be delivered prior to the pandemic. However, now those companies are having to extend their expectations.
"Typically we were talking a couple months, not years," Rector said.

LCSO and FCPS said they are now prepared to wait up-to two years for their orders to arrive. And, once those orders arrive they still take several more weeks per vehicle to be wrapped with agency decals and outfitted with emergency lighting.

"I've had to put vehicles back in service that we retired just because of the need," Melvin said.

The price of the vehicles that are behind on delivery are also coming at a greater cost. The agencies that placed their orders years ago are not guaranteed to pay the price they had once expected. The manufacturers can, and have, increased the price of the delayed cars to adjust to inflation.

One agency reported paying anywhere from 20-to-30% more today for a vehicle than what they expected to when first ordering it.

Because the vehicles are owned and operated by government agencies, that bill is ultimately handed down to tax payers.

Rector said the delays are not just limited to police vehicles. He said ordering other fleet vehicles like specialized bucket trucks comes at an even greater delay, with some trucks projected to not arrive in the next three years.

Barnes and Melvin said the delays in fleet deliveries are disappointing and challenging, but they will not impact the public's access to help during times of emergency.

"The mechanics here in Fort Collins have done a great job at keeping our fleet in shape, that has allowed us to not have any interruption to service for the community," Barnes said. 

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