The city has purchased cars in recent weeks for four police patrol SUVs following a series of mechanical issues and warranty headaches.

City commissioners this month approved a budget change to expedite the purchase of four new Ford Explorer police vehicles to replace four ailing 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe models, none with more than about 65,000 on the clock.

At their final meeting of the summer, the commission voted 5-0 to move $185,200 of spending from the 2023 capital budget into the 2022 budget to facilitate the purchase, funded by surtax money. on infrastructure in Manatee County.

Any Chevrolet product at auction would return to the same fund. About $12,000 to $15,000 is expected for each of the used vehicles. Around $19,000 has already been offered for the four in exchange, prompting the city to enter the auction market.

Although police vehicles are difficult to find, due to closures of Ford’s popular Crown Victoria police sedans and Dodge’s closure of the police version of the Charger sedan, Chief of Police George Turner has is leaning on contacts he’s made over the years to informally shelve four 2022 police model Explorers with a Polk County dealership, pending commission action.

“There are only five in the entire state of Florida,” Turner said July 1. “We have a grip on four of them.”

Two of these new SUVs could be on the road this week, outfitted and geared up for police duty. Two more would likely be ready to patrol by the end of July. The department already operates several police-model Ford Explorers, and police department personnel removed necessary equipment from Tahoes in early July for use in Explorers, Turner said.

“It’s extremely fortunate and unusual,” City Manager Tom Harmer said, adding that the ordering process would normally take at least a year.

According to city records, all four Chevrolets began to suffer from fuel system and internal engine illnesses within the last 12 months, belching white smoke accompanied by a strong smell of fuel at the engine. interior of vehicles.

Each time they were towed to a repair shop, the city said, repair technicians found multiple repair codes displayed by the vehicles’ diagnostic computers.

After the 36,000-mile manufacturer’s warranty expired, an extended warranty covered repairs until June, when General Motors alerted the city that the Texas-based Amynta Group refused to cover service costs. additional.

The city was advised that warranty coverage was not intended for “police department vehicles” and should not have been offered for sale by the Jacksonville-area dealer who handled the sale.

The city has since been reimbursed $8,640 by Garber Auto Group for the remainder of the extended warranties on the three SUVs. The fourth SUV was not covered by an extended warranty, Turner said.

“If we hadn’t had a warranty issue, we would have paid that money, they would have been happy, and we never would have known,” Turner said. “But as soon as we started making repair requests, the first two, they canceled us.”

City attorney Maggie Mooney said the city is also reviewing Florida’s lemon laws, which are designed to protect owners of vehicles with consistent and chronic mechanical problems.

“I’m very surprised the Chevy Tahoes fell apart the way they did,” Turner said, adding that the new Fords will start with three-year, 36,000-mile factory warranties and he expects that Fords last longer than the latest batch of Chevrolets.

Turner said the department parked all four Tahoes and avoided driving them to avoid further repair bills in case one breaks down again and requires towing. In recent weeks, the city had to pay a Bradenton Chevrolet $800 to have one fixed.

In the meantime, other police vehicles are put into service, but also run on patrol vehicle mileage through extended use. The 2022 budget includes about $31,000 in spending on an unmarked car for detective use.

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