Ford to Curb Crown Vic Sales

The Ford Crown Victoria is an American institution: a big, comfortable, gas-guzzling sedan that's become the workhorse of major urban police departments and cab companies. But with retail sales down 90 percent since 2000, the Crown Vic—a favorite of car buffs—might soon become a nostalgia piece. Ford will stop selling it to the public next year, and pretty soon it might vanish from the street altogether.

The automaker still expects to sell 50,000 Crown Vics to the government this year, mostly for use in law enforcement. But the Police Interceptor model has been losing market share in the last few years to the Chevy Impala and Dodge Charger, whose 340-horsepower Hemi engine gives it a top speed of 150mph, making it popular with highway patrol officers. The Impala is also faster than the Crown Vic—which redlines at 130mph—and troopers in Northern states prefer its front-wheel drive in the winter. "Chevy's numbers are growing," says Michigan State Police Lt. David Halliday. The Crown Vic's future as a cab is grim too. Of the 4,000 that Ford sells to fleets each year, 3,500 end up as yellow cabs in New York City. But with Mayor Michael Bloomberg eager to field an all-hybrid taxi fleet by 2012—and cities like Boston, San Francisco and Chicago looking at hybrid taxis as a way to cut air pollution—Ford is pushing its Escape Hybrid, which runs on electricity alone at speeds of up to 25mph, as the cab of the future. A new advertising campaign even features Kermit the Frog stumping for the Escape. (Get it? They're both green.)

Ford says that it will continue to produce the Crown Vic "for the foreseeable future," but enthusiasts take a more fatalistic view. "It doesn't look good," says Steve Spaulding, owner of, a fan forum with more than 10,000 members who cherish the car's combination of comfort, durability and power. "We figure it's going to be gone in a few years." In better times, Spaulding led fellow connoisseurs on regular pilgrimages to the Ford plant in Ontario, Canada, where every Crown Vic is born. But visits have tapered as sales and production have declined. Last year, Ford sold just 3,000 of them to the public; today, there are less than 100 new, unsold Crown Vics on dealer lots in the whole country. Abraham Caldes has owned four Crown Vics in his 39 years as a New York City cab driver, and put more than 300,000 miles on all of them. But with 2012 looming, he would rather call it a career than trade in for a new hybrid. "I'm going to retire with this car," Caldes says. "I'd rather go out with the Crown Vic." And it might go out with him.