100 Things You Should Know About Daimler | #8

It is thanks to Daimler that German police cars are silver

German police car’s bear blue wraps to indicate a shared identity in the EU and neon-yellow contour markings to improve visibility. The color design of German police cars is no coincident. But why is their basic body color silver? Daimler established this color as the standard, thanks to a revolutionary leasing concept.

Policemen in West Germany first used green-and-white patrol cars to hunt down criminals in most of West Germany back in the 1970s, when baddies on the run were still likely to be wearing bellbottoms. After the turn of the millennium, policemen drove patrol cars that were green-and-silver, then blue-and-silver — much more like the cool cops in Hollywood thrillers. These changes were part of the harmonization process within the EU — which supposedly began with rules on how curved EU cucumbers were allowed to be.

But who came up with the idea that all German police cars should be painted a shimmering “Brilliant Silver”? It wasn’t the bureaucrats in Brussels — it was Daimler!

At the end of the 1990s, the Ministry of the Interior of the state of Baden-Württemberg launched the “Technology Future Program”. Among other things, it called for a renewal of the state’s fleet of police cars. The aim was to lease the vehicles instead of buying them. DaimlerChrysler won the Europe-wide call for tenders and received the order for a total of 3,800 leased cars and vans. It then came up with a revolutionary idea: converting the patrol cars back to normal vehicles. But how could these special-purpose vehicles be converted back into production vehicles as easily and economically as possible to improve their resale value?

One specific answer to this question was that white should no longer be the vehicles’ basic body color, as had been the case since 1975. Instead, it should be silver, because the post-leasing resale value of a silver vehicle on the used car market was higher than that of a white one. What’s more, thanks to a special vehicle wrapping process, the green wraps on the vehicles’ moving parts could be easily removed. The roof bars with the special police equipment could also be dismounted without too much trouble by going through the opening of the sliding roof.

Police cars handover to the regional police authorities of Baden-Württemberg.
Police cars handover to the regional police authorities of Baden-Württemberg.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class as a police car.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class as a police car.
1980s: The Mercedes-Benz 420 SE as a Police car.
1980s: The Mercedes-Benz 420 SE as a Police car.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter for the German Federal Police.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter for the German Federal Police.
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To be specific, the DaimlerChrysler leasing concept actually came from the Mercedes-Benz Sales Division in Stuttgart and DaimlerChrysler Bank (which today is called Mercedes-Benz Bank). The concept spread quickly among police departments and became the standard for the contracting public authorities as well as the other automakers throughout Germany.

That’s no surprise, because it made it possible to reduce the monthly leasing rates and boost the resale value of used patrol cars. Besides, the state saved around 4,500 deutsche marks per vehicle — which would have been the cost of repainting a white patrol car after the end of the leasing period. In addition, the vehicles were provided with a service contract and had shorter leasing periods — changes that enabled police departments to reduce their maintenance costs as well as the operations of their own workshops.

And there was yet another reason why police departments were delighted to receive their “Silver Arrows” as the first leasing vehicles were handed over in April 2000. “This model has a fantastic reputation!” wrote Erwin Hetger, the President of the State Police of Baden-Württemberg at that time, in the DaimlerChrysler employee newspaper in 2001. And the police officer Thomas Rockus was so carried away that he made the following declaration of love, which is probably valid even today: “In the new patrol cars from Mercedes-Benz we feel more comfortable than in any other car!”

Bartek Langer

wanted to be an FBI agent as a kid, then changed his mind and wanted to be a sheriff. He didn’t become either one. However, he does carry a star around with him these days – on his business card.

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