Can an Australian Kia Stinger pursuit car woo orders from US police?
The timing couldn’t have been better.
Just one day after a frightening news-grabbing 75-minute police chase where suspected robbers raced through busy rush-hour Los Angeles’ suburban and downtown traffic at speeds as high as 140km/h, an Australian Kia Stinger highway patrol car made a star appearance at the LA motor show, tasked with drawing attention from United States’ law enforcement agencies.
Television viewers across Los Angeles were riveted to their screens as the LA Police Department attempted to coral the alleged thieves in the silver GMC Acadia SUV as it weaved dangerously through the late afternoon traffic, often crossing to the wrong side of double lines, heading the wrong direction along one-way streets and sliding around corners against red lights.
Police car chases are not unusual in Los Angeles, but this one was a particularly memorable one, fortunately ending without serious injury. Finally, the SUV slammed into a bus stop shelter and the occupants arrested after a brief chase on foot.
The following day, the right-hand-drive Aussie Stinger, luridly presented in Queensland Road Policing Command livery, was attracting attention on the Kia stand at Los Angeles motor show, a steady stream of people checking it out.
It is one of 50 Stingers heading to the Queensland Road Policing Command before Christmas, with 22 more to follow in 2019.
After decades of dependence on home-grown highway patrol cars, the end of local manufacturing has forced a change to the composition of police fleets all around Australia, with Holdens, Fords and Toyotas no longer obligatory.
The sourcing of cars used for road patrolling and first responders in different states has been fiercely fought by many brands from Europe, Asia and the United States.
Choosing appropriate replacements for the outgoing Aussie iron has been made more difficult by the slender number of large and sporty rear-wheel-drive cars preferred by the cops.
Conventional sedans and SUVs, including the Toyota Camry and Kluger, and Hyundai Sonata and Kia Sorento are used for much of the routine law enforcement business and general patrol duties.
But for the exacting challenges of pursuits and first response work, high-performing sports sedans with strong braking and roadholding and generous space are the only choice.
With a history of highway policing work in other countries, the turbocharged diesel six-cylinder BMW 530d and the Chrysler 300 SRT V8 initially found favour in some states before the potent twin-turbo V6 Kia Stinger emerged out of nowhere to capture interest of several local forces.
The South Korean brand has shaken up the fleet landscape locally, with the Western Australian Police also taking 50 Stingers. Law enforcement agencies in other states and the Northern Territory are also appraising the rear-drive Kia.
Kia Motors America believes US cops should be impressed with the Australian-developed police Stinger, fitted with a special Kia Australia-developed “plug and play” wiring loom to accommodate all the extra electronic equipment needed for law enforcement.
Kia has a manufacturing plant in the US, which overcomes one obstacle to acceptance. The Stinger’s appeal to policing agencies obviously starts with its accelerative performance and dynamics. But other factors are a competitive purchase cost, low running costs (it uses 91 octane fuel) and the minimal changes required to ready the Kia for serious highway work.
The twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 sprints from rest to 100km/h in under five seconds, making it an ideal first responder and city pursuit car.
Kia Motors America’s director of media communications James Bell told Drive that one big US supplier of equipment to Chevrolets used for pursuit work, was supremely confident he can get the Stinger into “that world”. The supplier has asked for a Stinger to be measured up.
Kia delivers its base-model Stinger S models to the Queensland police under a fleet contract. The Brembo brakes remain as delivered, along with the standard Continental tyres. The necessary law enforcement gear is then fitted - flashing lights, two roof-mounted cameras tasked to recognise number plates, and a radar camera located in the cabin.
The Stinger police car was developed by Kia Australia, unlike the BMW, which was purpose-made for police work in Germany and is widely used through Europe and the UK.
The many and varied US law enforcement organisations currently use a number of different patrol cars including the Chevrolet Caprice, Dodge Charger, Dodge Magnum and elderly Ford Crown Victoria. Even Mustang and Corvette.
Kia Australia’s public relations manager Kevin Hepworth said the attraction of supplying products to police is the resulting high public profile. “People recognise that if the police use our cars then they must be reliable and strong.”
Hepworth added that supplying police also works as an entrée into bigger government markets. He said that as well as the Sorento SUV and Cerato sedan, there is an opportunity for the most affordable of the Stingers, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder, to be added to fleets.