By on November 8, 2010

Yes, our recent acquisition of complete 2009 fleet sales data came a little late in the game, but we’re still finding all kinds of fun facts buried in it. For fans of limited government, perhaps the most interesting revelation is that the government fleet sales data shows that American governments (it’s unclear whether these are state, local or federal agencies) bought some sweet cars last year. Some sweet, expensive cars. Let’s take a look at some of the most surprising government fleet purchases of 2009, accompanied by our guesses for how each purchase was used.

Audi R8 (2):  Two of these $100k+ mid-engined exotics were purchased by governments last year, likely to be used as bribes. The big question: did the government(s) in question go for the speed of bureaucracy (4.2 V8) or did they upgrade to the “private-sector-fast” version (5.2 V10)?

Audi TT (2): TTs ain’t cheap either, starting at $38,300 and going from there up into the $50k+ range. Were the two of these purchased by government last year bough for use as patrol vehicles or as transport for unscrupulous pols?

Mercedes G-Wagen (2): Malibu beach patrol?

Porsche Boxster (2): Boxsters start around the $47k mark, and increase in price like crazy with each option box checked. We like to think that one county government blew its annual fleet budget on a brace of TTs and the next county over bought a pair of Boxsters to keep up. We like the idea of two county governments somewhere bringing services to a grinding halt while they hold endless TT vs Boxster sportscar races.

Potiac Solstice (3): Yet another county joins the local government sportscar series, fielding a team of Solstices. The third car is for parts.

Mazda MX-5 (3): These actually make fantastic rural postal delivery vehicles. Best. Job. Ever.

Audi A5 (3): All-black, these were purchased by the IRS to make particularly sinister audit visitations. Scary-looking Germans were hired to announce to terrified taxpayers that “Vee are are zee Ow-dee Ow-dit team. Vee hope you kept your receipts.”

Porsche Cayman (1): Only a government official could think it makes sense to spend more for a Boxster with a hardtop. We’re guessing this bad boy belongs to a small-town mayor who can get out of speeding tickets and is as likely to be brought down in a sex scandal as a “buying a Porsche with public money” scandal.

Mercedes SL (1): As above, only about 20 years older.

Maserati GranTourismo (1): As above, but way ballsier. Congratulations are due to anyone with the sheer audacity to charge $120k worth of Italian coupe to a government’s dime.

Ferrari California (1): Two words: Rod Blagojevich. Look into it.

BMW 128 (1): Yes, it’s the cheapest BMW. No, it does not make sense as a overnment vehicle.

VW GTI (3), New Beetle (6) and Eos (2): Really? Really? A vanilla Golf wouldn’t have done the trick?

BMW 335i (4): Because government needs twin turbos to go with its impeccable handling… and ruinous maintenance bills.

Rolls-Royce Phantom (1): We have no idea. Obama pushes a Caddy… who spent over $300k on one of these?

Lexus LS600h Hybrid: Who knows? Even though these things cost about $100k, you’ll never be able to point one out in traffic. The clever corrupt bureaucrat’s choice.

HUMMER H3 (42): Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Honor Guard.

Range Rover (including RR Sport) (8): Nancy Pelosi’s Honor Guard.

Cadillac Escalade ESV (8): Kwame Kilpatrick’s Honor Guard.

In all seriousness, anyone who knows what governments purchased any of these vehicles last year is encouraged to contact TTAC at our contact form.

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31 Comments on “The Strangest Government Fleet Purchases Of 2009...”

  • avatar

    I can understand why cops would have HUMMERS since they are mostly for travelling through heavy sediment areas or driving over 20 inch rock walls. BUT WHY IS THE SHERIFF IN THE PICTURE ROLLING ON DUBZ?

    I can understand why the state government would have ESV’s –  for state funerals for one.

    Frankly I think the cops state shouldn’t be allowed to buy anything except BIG 3 automobiles for their usage. 

    If I ever catch a cop riding a state S550, I AM GOING TO START THE LOUDEST PROTEST EVER and I’ll be marching with Republicans and tea baggers against “large government and wasteful spending”.  I’d be that pissed off.

    • 0 avatar

      Frankly I think the cops state shouldn’t be allowed to buy anything except BIG 3 automobiles for their usage.
      I’d much prefer they buy the least expensive option that will meet their needs regardless of where it comes from or who makes it; same as any other piece of equipment.  Anything else is an invitation for the favored group (in the case the “Big 3”) to gouge the government from the safety of a situation with artificially limited competition.
      Although I don’t agree with it, I can at least see the logic behind a requirement to only buy vehicles assembled in the USA or with a minimum percentage of USA-sourced parts.
      I’d be interested to hear the logic behind a Mexico-built Ford being inherently preferable to an Ohio-built Honda.

    • 0 avatar


      “I’d be interested to hear the logic behind a Mexico-built Ford being inherently preferable to an Ohio-built Honda.”

      the only logic i could think of is that the profits from the Mexican built Ford stays in the US where the profits for the Ohio built Honda go to Japan.

    • 0 avatar

      The photo is for a company that does conversions if I remember correctly.  Not a real police vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      I would think that the communities in which people are employed at transplant factories (in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Alabama etc) don’t really care that profits are going overseas especially since the D3 have been moving factories out of those states (to Mexico, Korea and points beyond) for decades.  Those local and state governments should be supporting the industries in their regions.  Z4 patrol car in South Carolina anyone?

    • 0 avatar

      the only logic i could think of is that the profits from the Mexican built Ford stays in the US where the profits for the Ohio built Honda go to Japan.

      Eh, not really.  The profits from the Ford go to anybody who owns Ford stock, which can be anybody anywhere.  The profits from the Honda go to anybody who owns Honda stock, which can be anybody anywhere.

      Want some of those sweet, sweet profits that are allegedly “going back to Japan”?  Call your broker and they’ll be yours in 20 minutes.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    I would bet the Hummer in the photo is a seizure.  Why buy when you can seize.

  • avatar

    I was always under the impression that automakers supplied cars to the DOT and other government agencies for testing, but is it possible that the government buys it’s own to assure the carmakers don’t give them a ringer?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m assuming some of these vehicles were purchased by government agencies such as the NHSTA or EPA for some sort of testing.  I can understand what practical purpose the government would have with something like a R8 or Phantom otherwise.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    “We are the American government.  We answer to no one, least of all you taxpayers.  We’ll buy what we want, and if you don’t like it, we’ll audit you, harass you, close your business, or send jackbooted thugs to arrest you.  How dare you, when you sleep soundly under the blanket of security we provide, have the audacity to question the methods we use to provide that blanket?  We’d prefer you just said thank you, and kept sending in your tax dollars for us to foolishly waste.”

    It is amazing the things you see when you don’t have a gun in your hand….

  • avatar

    I always understood that cops often had promotional vehicles that they used for parades, children’s school visits, etc. However, I had always known (and later assumed) that they were seized property from drug dealers and the like. But the failure to auction off a seized vehicle is just as bad as spending the money, so it’s not really much different.
    I believe the Hummer in the top pic is a seizure. It made the rounds on the web a few months ago.

  • avatar

    The Phantom is to pick on the JFK airport illustrious visitors like Hugo Chavez, Ahmmadinejad, Gadafi, Fidel and Raul Castro, all of them close friend of the US of A

    • 0 avatar

      good to see that even the dictators,  that preach their own people that the capitalist USA is evil and “making sacrifices for the nation” is noble, require stylish cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Chavez is a very sacrificed leader, he has 2 E-Class (previous gen), an Airbus, a 737 and his budget is bigger than the assigned to education.

  • avatar

    Cadillac Escalade ESV (8): Kwame Kilpatrick’s Honor Guard.
    Don’t think your stereotyping went unnoticed. You assume just because he belongs to a certain sub-culture (Detroiters) he automatically drives a certain type of vehicle (domestic).

    • 0 avatar

      Stereotypes got nothing to do with it. In fairness to Kwame though, he was smart enough to appropriate a donated vehicle for unethical personal use.
      If there’s a cheap and/or stereotyped shot in there, it’s on Blago. Or Pelosi. Or the Merc SL.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, Ed, just teasing (sometimes I forget emoticons when I lose track of which sites are more serious vs tongue-in-cheek. Loved your guesses.)

    • 0 avatar

      “This was at least the second time the Kilpatrick administration has avoided council approval by entering into contracts just below the $25,000 threshold: the Lincoln Navigator SUV leased for the Kilpatrick family in 2005 with city funds cost $24,995.”

  • avatar

    “Ferrari California (1): Two words: Rod Blagojevich. Look into it.”

    Not a chance. Bouffant Boy got punted by the state legislature early in 2009 while everyone was watching him 24/7 lest he try to sell the Governor’s mansion. 2008, that would be another story.

  • avatar

    Maybe…the government bought the Lexus, the Audi R8s and the Miatas to give to GM to copy?
    Honestly, I’m fascinated. I’m guessing most of these are on the municipal/state level. But the Rolls? The R8s? WTF? I can believe some over-entitled morons actually bought these things on the public’s dime, I just can’t believe they would not be flayed alive for it.
    Are these actually all purchases, and not gifts? I mean, it’s still corruption, but it’s corruption that lots of people turn a blind eye to.

  • avatar

    I suppose its possible that something other than an Impala or a Crown Vic is needed for undercover work;  and it is also possible that seizures aren’t always the most reliable resource for a latter-day Crockett and Tubbs.  Yet as big as a stretch as it is to think that some of these purchases had some bearing on Law enforcement, or anything else beggars the imagination.

  • avatar

    Let them eat cake.

  • avatar

    Americans should count themselves fortunate that their government only bought 42 hummers.
    The Chinese bureaucrat buys would be much much worse, though of arguably better taste.
    It would probably read something like this
    BMW 7 series (3456)
    Mercedes S class (6789)
    Audi A6 (562456034534) all in black natch
    Doubt you’ll find many sports cars as chauffeurs do most of the driving. Plenty of rear leg room though to roll around in. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of German luxury car sales in China are bought by the government at all levels.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I suspect that some of those exotics which received government registrations might have been vehicles seized from drug busts, IRS seizures and the like. Or, the data might just be wrong.

  • avatar

    For the luxury SUVs {maybe even the sports cars}: leased to presidents (or football/basketball coaches) of public universities/medical/law schools is my guess.  They seem to fly under the limits imposed on other Government officials by public attention.

  • avatar

    It is at this time that I like to announce my candidacy for “some government office”. Any government office will do.

    Let’s hurry up and do this so I can put my 6-speed Challenger SRT8 on order!

  • avatar

    Ed, couldn’t you make a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to the automotive task force to determine who made any of the GM or Chrysler purchases.  Since Uncle Sam is an owner he should have access to who the sales were made to.  So I say draft a FOIA (sounds like Oh Yeah said by a Minnesotan) and drop it on Steven Rattner’s dept.
    Let them have fun with it.  By law they have to respond (I think?).

  • avatar

    Possible that not all of the the more exotic purchases were by us government(s)?  E.G., not many car dealerships in the Caribbean……perhaps a government down there sourced a nice ride from say, A U.S. (insert luxury make here) dealership and exported it……likewise, if the security situation in your country requires bulletproof, and there is no local shop– a car bought and converted in U.S. for export?

  • avatar

    the only one that makes sense is the Phantom for visiting Dignitaries and Royals…that’s it. why do i have to be doing to get bribed with an R8?

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