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CHICAGO | Officers sitting in new Ford 2016 Police Interceptors patrol vehicles will have added defense mechanisms that could give them protection if they are being stalked by criminals.

The new model of the best-selling police vehicle has a surveillance mode feature that senses anyone walking up behind the car, alerts the driver, and automatically locks the doors and rolls up all four windows.

Ford turned to a panel of 25 law enforcement professionals from across the country to suggest improvements for the new Police Interceptor SUV, which was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show by a K9 dog pulling the silk sheet off with its teeth amid a burst of camera flashes. About 4,000 Ford workers build the Interceptor—which is based on the Ford Explorer SUV—at the Chicago Assembly Plant in Hegewisch.

“This is a hometown Chicago vehicle, made on the South Side,” said Fritz Ahadi, general manager of Ford's Commercial and Government Sales Operations.

Sales have been strong. Ford’s two Police Interceptors—the other based on the Taurus sedan—captured 55 percent of the national market share last year, an 8 percent increase over the previous year, said Jonathan Honeycutt, police marketing manager. Ford has the best-selling police vehicle in 40 states, up six states over 2013.

The locally made vehicles are shipped across the United States and to more than 80 countries around the world. But many stay in the Chicago area, which is the epicenter of Ford’s commercial fleet business with major clients like McDonald’s, Walsh Construction, Walgreens and ComEd.

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Nearly 100 percent of the vehicle in the Chicago Police Department fleet are Police Interceptors, which have nearly 60 percent of the overall market share in Illinois.

“Ford’s success, whether to consumers or business or government agencies, all tie back to our fundamental drive to listen to our customers and deliver innovative products that exceed their expectations,” he said. “The Interceptor utility is a great proof point. Sedans traditionally dominated the police market, with the Ford Crown Victoria most popular among them. The Police Interceptor SUV changed the market. When it rolled out in 2012, it reinvented the segment. It disrupted the status quo.”

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Quoting “Blues Brothers,” Ahadi said Ford knew the Interceptor needed a “cop motor, cop tires and cop shocks,” but used police input to design other features that would help patrol officers.

The Interceptor has all-wheel drive, 365 horsepower and a six-speed transmission that stays in higher gears if it’s been speeding for a while, to help police with chases. The new model has a more aggressive look, a taller profile to give it more visibility and brighter lights on the sides to ensure that officers are safe from passing motorists during traffic stops, Honeycutt said.

The new model has plenty of room inside to carry a lot of equipment and also sensors that can give the pressure of each individual tire, so the driver knows when they’re going low.

“The Crown Vics was popular, but these vehicles take it to the next level,” Honeycutt said.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

Senior Copy Editor

Jeanette is a journalist with The Times Media Co. who has worked as both a reporter and editor. She has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.