Dodge disapproves of Australia's Charger cop cars
Dodge's head office claims the cars have no factory backing and won't vouch for the safety of the finished conversions
Australia's currently in a bit of a pickle when it comes to its fleet of police cars. The end of domestic car manufacturing by Ford and General Motors in Australia has created a situation with Australia's police fleets where they could end up with a gaping hole where highway patrol vehicles would be. Whilst it's been easy enough in many cases to replace domestic Australian models with fleet-priced European and Asian alternatives, when it comes to cars suitable for Australia's highway patrol work those companies just don't offer a lot of options.
This is where Brisbane-based SCD Remanufactured Vehicles, a firm which specialises in converting privately-imported US vehicles from left to right-hand drive, comes in. The company revealed last week that it had imported two V6-powered Dodge Chargers from the US that had been modified for police work, with the intention of loaning them out to police agencies for test drives once they had been converted to right-hand-drive in Australia. This has caused a bit of a storm however, as Stellantis (the parent company of Dodge) and FCA Australia (Stellantis's Australian subsidiary) have unequivocally distanced themselves from SCD Remanufactured Vehicles' conversions and its proposal to create right-hand-drive versions of American police interceptors for the Australian market.
"Stellantis and FCA Australia do not have any direct business or legal affiliation or relationship with SCD Remanufactured Vehicles or any of its affiliates. These entities are not authorised importers of Stellantis branded vehicles, including the Dodge Charger or Ram Truck," said a statement that was delivered to CarAdvice. "As such, Stellantis and FCA Australia cannot guarantee or endorse that the conversion processes employed by SCD, its affiliates, and other non-factory approved, third party importers comply with rigorous quality and safety requirements established by our internal processes and requirements of our company."
"We caution, therefore, that customers of non-factory authorised, third party importers, such as SCD, may not receive the same level of regulatory compliance for recall and safety obligations," the statement continued. "In contrast, customers who have purchased a converted vehicle from a factory-authorised importer can be assured that the quality, recall, and safety processes supporting these products are also aligned with the stringent requirements of government regulators and Stellantis’ global engineering team."
A lot of the issues around this stem from imports requiring "full volume compliance" and confusion surrounding what the term actually means. Whilst many believe that "full volume compliance" means that a car such as the Charger would be re-engineered in a way that meets full US factory standards, that isn't always the case. Australian regulations also currently allow smaller private importers to allow for "full volume compliance" without having to go through getting the full support of the manufacturer back in the US. This can have a huge impact on things such as the engineering and safety of the vehicle, as cheaply done RHD conversions or conversions with no manufacturer support could actually make the car a much less safe place to be in the event of an accident.
Eddie Kocwa and Steve Davidson, the owners of SCD Remanufactured Vehicles, had this to say about the whole situation: "We will do whatever the Australian Design Rules require us to do," Kocwa told CarAdvice when he was asked about any safety or compliance issues regarding the police-spec Chargers. "The whole compliance system in Australia is very old-school and it’s being changed at the moment to bring it up with the times. But if there’s no exemption, then we will do whatever is required."
Once all the work is done, the company's plan is to gauge interest from Australian police departments before going to the US with a fleet order for the police interceptors. "The first step is to … get them signed off here, build up an appetite in Australia, and then go back to America and put a deal together... Australia and America are great allies. When the Federal Police in Australia have an interest in the car, it will be a different ask when I’ve got the Federal Police helping support us to get those vehicles."
Kocwa said that since the arrival of the Chargers to Australia was made public last week, he's recieved a huge amount of interest over them. "I’ve had everyone in the country call me. Now that they’re here, everyone wants to test them out... The first one will go to the AFP (for a trial) and the second one will probably go to NSW. They can take the car and do what they want to it." Kocwa has claimed that police departments in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the company's native Queensland have all expressed an interest in inspecting the Chargers.
Kocwa was also keen to mention that people back in the US are very interested in exploring the potential of their police cars going to Australia, which is why his company were able to buy two examples of the law enforcement model of the car even though it's not available for the public to buy. "There are people in North America who want this deal to go ahead," said Kocwa. "I can’t confirm who they are, but there are people overseas who want this to happen."
Perhaps the biggest barrier to Australian police forces using the Charger, however, could be the cost of the locally-done RHD conversion. Whilst factory-built RHD Chargers would be an affordable option, especially at discounted fleet prices, SCD Remanufactured Vehicles' conversion is expected to push the price of these American cop cars close to or even in excess of A$100,000. Without factory backing or discounted pricing, the Charger could be a hard sell for Australian police departments.
That hasn't put Kocwa and Davidson off, though. "The big thing I’m trying to do is change the mindset of the procurement departments for not only police vehicles, but all government vehicles," said Kocwa. "The amount of doors I knocked on … you’re just dealing with bureaucrats who don’t have the authority to make a call, so we’ve gone out and done it ourselves."
However this conflict between a major American car manufacturer and a small private imports firm in Australia gets resolved, it could set a very interesting precedent not only with things to do with factory support for RHD conversions of LHD American cars, but also to do with where Australia's next police interceptors will come from. This is definitely something you'll want to keep a close eye on!