Tuesday, October 30, 2007

417 heading for retirement


Car 417 is on it's last leg in the Lincoln police fleet. It is a 2002 Toyota Prius that Debbie Northcott drives in her daily duties as a public service officer in Northwest Lincoln, handling parking complaints, snagging abandoned bicycles, directing traffic, and the like. Debbie's put 86,000 miles on this little hybrid in the past five and a half years, and it's replacement will soon be ordered. She's not too happy about loosing it. If she had her preference, she'd keep it rather than get a new ride in the spring.
It is a gas-electric hybrid--the first or second year Toyota's now wildly popular Prius was available in the market. The conventional wisdom is never buy a car in it's first couple of production years, but back in 2002, we thought it would be wise to get our feet wet with a hybrid, and try the technology out. The conventional wisdom in this case was wrong, because the car has been great. I took it out for a spin myself when it was new, and was amazed at the technology and the guts 417 had compared to the Toyota Tercel I was more accustomed to. I had this weird feeling, though, that I'd killed the engine every time I stopped.
The Prius has been pretty much trouble free, and it's been covered by the warranty. It's averaged 34 miles per gallon, nearly triple the fleet average. Debbie drives its wheels off 417--lots of stop and go traffic, lots of idling, and in all sorts of inclement weather. This workhorse doesn't get the ArmorAll and McGuire's treatment every Saturday at the car spa--it's been stored outside continuously. Anybody thinking about a Prius and a little worried about buyer's remorse in three or four years should talk to Debbie.
We'd be buying more hybrids, especially for our public service officers and parking enforcement staff, if the price was right. At the moment, as with car 417, the increased gas mileage fails to offset the higher purchase price over the life cycle of the car in our fleet operation. This is beginning to change, however, and I predict more hybrids may be in our future within the next few years.

9 comments:

jenn said...

If it is still running, why get a new one? Just curious.

Tom Casady said...

Jenn-

Our fleet manager tries to replace passenger cars at 80,000, because that's when the cost of maintenance starts to outstrip the value. Police vehicles have about double the wear and tear that a normal passenger vehicle would accumulate, due to engine hours, lack of highway miles, and lots of idling.

Car 417 will be well over 90,000 by the time it's auctioned. The battery system on the 2002 is warranted for 100,000 miles, and costs roughly $6,000 to replace--parts and labor.

If we had to replace the battery system, we'd be spending well over half the vehicle's residual value on that item alone.

Anonymous said...

When you don't have to go 130mph, you might as well get great mileage!

Engine hours: Before Ford started installing engine-hour meters (finally on the 2006 models I think) on the CVPI, did your shop install any EO meters at your facility, or did you have to guesstimate engine-hours?

By the way, speaking of idling (and getting back in the cruiser after working up a sweat on a hot day), I've always wondered if this interesting gadget had any value or not.

Anonymous said...

Nice car but the building it's parked in front of looks pretty shabby...

Tom Casady said...

I'll need some help here, but my recollection is that the Police Garage at 635 J Street dates to the 1930's, and was originally (or at least at some point in its history) a Studebaker dealership. The J Street side was still the glass-fronted showroom when I parked my assigned motorcyle there every day.

Chief Al said...

Your days of riding a motor are over old man.......

ex-lpd said...

From what I remember, they had to put "training wheels" on your bike before Ole would let you leave 635

Tom Casady said...

I wish! Those training wheels could have saved me some serious embarrassment on my first day at 56th and South Street.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if your PSO could give a glowing and detailed testimonial for this model, which Toyota could then use in advertising, and in exchange LPD could get a free (or at least heavily discounted) Prius!

If she loves the car that much, it'd be great (and unusually sincere) ad copy. It's worth a shot; the worst that could happen is that they'd say no.