Chevy dealer will sell you a new Caprice police car

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When Chevrolet announced last year it would import the Australian-built Chevy Caprice sedan as police-only fleet car, enthusiasts begged for a civilian version to no avail. Now one Maryland dealer says it will buck GM and sell 13 Caprices to the public. UPDATE: It's legit — but not for long.


In its advertising touting the models, Criswell Chevrolet of Gaithersburg, Md., touts the car's similarity to the cancelled Pontiac G8, its 355-hp V8 and its performance in Michigan State Police tests. The dealer has specially outfitted 13 detective sedans with additional features for public consumption, such as power windows and power seats. The list prices run from $31,000 to $37,000 — not a bad price considering GM's only other rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered sedan is the $67,000 Cadillac CTS-V.

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While GM has said it was strictly limiting the Caprice only to law enforcement agencies, it's not clear what would keep Criswell or another dealer from selling them to the public. GM has to certify the Caprice to all U.S. standards of crashworthiness, pollution and fuel efficiency, just as it does with the Chevy Captiva, the old Saturn Vue it sells only to rental fleets. But the Caprice isn't listed in government databases for fuel economy ratings and crash tests; the efficiency data in particular is required to be displayed on window stickers.

We've got calls into GM and the dealer to see how this is possible, but 13 lucky buyers might be the envy of their local cop shops — or more if other dealers can pull the same trick.

UPDATED: Criswell's sale is legit thanks to a sharp-eyed reading of contracts, and an oversight by GM.


The Caprice is the first vehicle GM has sold in decades that's supposed to be limited exclusively to police departments. But GM didn't explicitly say in the Caprice sales contracts with its dealers that the car could only be sold to law enforcement agencies. That means Criswell — or any other dealer with a Caprice on its lot today — is free to sell them to whomever has the money.

Unfortunately for Caprice fans, Criswell's sale has made GM aware of its mistake, and all future contracts will carry GM's public sale ban. A few lucky Caprice fans will be able to buy one new; the rest will have to wait a year or two for a high-mileage version to cross an auction block.


Thanks to adeft!



I'm just guessing, but here's my guess as to why GM doesn't want to sell this model of car even when they know customers would buy them: they need to keep their overall fleet fuel mileage below a certain level. This does not mean that GM can't sell any V8-powered cars at all, as we can see from "high-end" GM cars like the CTS-V and the Corvette. It means that they can't sell cheap V8-powered cars.

Because relatively few buyers can afford CTS-Vs and Corvettes, they sell few enough of them that those few thousand cars with their relatively poor mileage are counter-balanced by a million Cruzes and Malibus. And conversely, because these are "high-end" cars, they can mark the prices up to make up for the relatively low production numbers. But I suspect that if GM made a V8-powered sedan in the medium-priced range, it would sell lots and lots of units, and there goes compliance with CAFE standards.

This "theory" (if I may glamorize my unsubstantiated guess with that term) would also explain why Ford is discontinuing the Crown Victoria even though all its development costs are long-since amortized and the popular and institutional demand is high enough that they could easily sell tens of thousands of units a year for years to come.