Town may sever ties with Ford over police cars

November 29, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Sykesville and the Ford Motor Co. may come to a parting of the ways.

Twice this year, the town has had to replace engines in its Crown Victorias -- "police package units" -- used by its six-member Police Department.

If the automaker does not compensate Sykesville for the cost of repairs and loss of service, officials have said, the town has bought its last Ford.

All five police vehicles, including the newest K-9 unit, are Fords.

Chief Wallace P. Mitchell has written twice to the Ford Customer Service Division in Dearborn, Mich., and asked for reimbursement of the $7,517 repair costs.

The chief first wrote in September with details of the breakdowns. He demanded that the company "stand behind its product and compensate the department for the inconvenience" and expense.

About a month later, Ford replied with a letter that said the cars were both out of warranty and the town was ineligible for reimbursement.

"Ford's initial reaction was that they couldn't do anything because they lacked information and the cars were out of warranty," said James L. Schumacher, Sykesville town manager.

Mayor Jonathan S. Herman disagrees with the company's reasoning and asked the chief to draft another letter. He said the town should receive consideration as a longtime customer. The town has been a Ford customer for at least 10 years.

"If the company still doesn't respond, we will stop buying Ford products," Mr. Schumacher said.

The police cars receive regular maintenance at Joe Grimm Ford in Randallstown as part of the warranty program.

At 76,653 miles, the 1991 model's engine lost power, cut off and burned oil. Joe Grimm Ford replaced the engine in February at a cost of $2,517.

Mr. Schumacher said he is particularly concerned with the 1992 model. The motor was replaced in August after 36,676 miles, only 676 over the warranty. That bill was $5,000, after a 30 percent discount from the dealership.

"The cause, according to Joe Grimm Ford Inc., was a blockage of oil not circulating and subsequently causing the motor to seize," the chief wrote in his original letter.

The car had its oil changed two days before the engine locked, the chief said.

"I feel to experience this unexpected problem on two emergency vehicles is a matter Ford should investigate," he wrote.

Mr. Schumacher said, "Within six months, we had two engines on regularly maintained cars lock up and freeze. This should not happen."

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