Westerville could begin phasing out its Dodge Charger police cars in favor of police SUVs.

Westerville could begin phasing out its Dodge Charger police cars in favor of police SUVs.

Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer presented a plan to City Council at council's Jan. 14 work session to replace the aging Dodge sedans with new Ford Interceptor police SUVs, a relatively new model of police car based on the Ford Explorer.

The Dodge Chargers have outlived their projected life cycle of two to three years, Morbitzer said, and the police division has been having maintenance problems with them. "They're in the shop more than we've had them on the streets," Morbitzer said. "We've had several recall notices on Chargers. We've had maintenance issues on the Chargers."

Replacing them with the crossover Ford Interceptor, which is an SUV body on the Ford Taurus chassis, would give police more room within their vehicles, which now are cramped with equipment, provide patrolling officers with a better view of what's around them and make officers more visible in the community, Morbitzer said.

The Ford Interceptors also have better fuel efficiency while idling, which is important for police, whose vehicles often are left running, Morbitzer said.

"There are many reasons we've looked at this," he said.

The police division currently owns 14 Dodge Chargers and would like to replace six of them this year with the Ford Interceptor SUVs, Morbitzer said.

The Chargers that would be replaced were purchased by the city in 2009, said Westerville Public Service Director Frank Wiseman.

Replacing them with the Ford, instead of with another set of Chargers, would cost about $1,700 more per vehicle, he said. With the trade-in value of the Chargers, the Interceptors would cost just more than $20,000 apiece, Morbitzer said.

Wiseman said he feels Ford has done an excellent job of accommodating police needs in designing the vehicle, such as by creating extra space in the drivers' seats to accommodate the equipment police wear.

"Ford has done a good job of putting this together," Wiseman said. "I think this is a better vehicle ultimately."

Other jurisdictions using the vehicle, which only has been in production since 2012, have been happy with their performance and haven't reported any maintenance issues.

In addition to the Dodge Chargers, the police division does have some older Ford Crown Victorias that it will continue to use, mostly for school or non-patrolling officers, Morbitzer said.

Video feature from September 2013 showing the inside of the current Dodge Charger police cars