City’s Shopping For A Ford Explorer

Paul Bass PhotoMayor Toni Harp’s days of tooling around New Haven in a Toyota Prius may soon be over.

Harp said Monday that the city is looking to buy a Ford Explorer as the new official mayoral vehicle. The Prius has trouble handling hills in the snow and ice, she discovered.

“I think we need more traction,” she said, as she and her driver, Police Officer Eric Scott departed Monday from a Martin Luther King Jr. birthday event at Wexler-Grant Community School (pictured above) en route to other mayoral appearances around town.

She and Scott said they haven’t yet settled on a specific model to purchase. It will have four-wheel drive, Harp said.

The Prius will remain in the city fleet for use by other officials, Harp said. She observed that the 2004 vehicle has accumulated over 130,000 miles since former Mayor John DeStefano started driving it. (He had previously driven a Lincoln Navigator.)

“I know people want the [Toyota] hybrid,” Harp said. “But they don’t deal well with the snow we have.”

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posted by: New Haven Nuisance on January 21, 2014  1:50pm

I have an answer to the problem of snow-plow the streets!

posted by: HewNaven on January 21, 2014  2:05pm

If your car doesn’t handle well in the snow, you use a different vehicle when it snows. You don’t need to drive a 4WD year-round. In Southern Connecticut, there might be a half-dozen trips when you actually use the 4WD. Does one really need “more traction” in the spring, summer, and fall?

Lincoln Navigator—> Toyota Prius—> Ford Explorer

The Prius made it through last decade’s biggest snow storms and was actually purchased after a 4WD (Navigator) had been used. So is it really that bad? Can NHI ask someone from Destefano’s admin about this? How many times was he immobilized by the Prius? How many times did he need a lift in the snow?

posted by: owlmanatt on January 21, 2014  2:19pm

We’re replacing her perfectly-fine car despite needing to sell portions of the city to Yale to close budget gaps.

That would be funny if it weren’t so terrible.

posted by: robn on January 21, 2014  2:22pm

Sure. The Explorer only costs about $10,000 more. Try a different model Ford (cheaper and better mileage) or if you want true eco-props with all wheel drive, try a Sube.,13685,14159,14226

posted by: David S Baker on January 21, 2014  2:25pm

Snow tires = $500

posted by: BenBerkowitz on January 21, 2014  2:28pm

Not that this article is a call for vehicle recommendations but I will offer one anyways.  The prior CAO and I spent a couple of hours during nemo helping to push out Police Officers, Plow trucks and Explorer SUV’s in the City’s Eco Boost Ford Escape(I believe). We were the only vehicle on the road that I could see that was not getting stuck.

The Mayor’s driver should think about testing that already City owned vehicle in today’s storm. Its quite impressive and carries less environmental and (negative political impact likely to be displayed in the comment stream to follow.)

posted by: realitycheck57 on January 21, 2014  2:32pm

Hope she considers the Ford Escape hybrid if she’s looking for an SUV

posted by: Wooster Squared on January 21, 2014  2:50pm

Mayor Harp,

I’ve lived in New England my entire life and I can tell you that a front-wheel drive sedan with snow tires can handle pretty much anything a Ford Explorer can.

Please save us taxpayers some money and use the car you already have, with a $500 set of snow tires if necessary.

Otherwise if you absolutely have to have an expensive new SUV, please do what the rest of us do and pay for it yourself.

How many youths could be given jobs this summer with the $60,000 or more in taxpayer money you’re spending on this SUV?

posted by: DrJay on January 21, 2014  3:11pm

I have a Prius. It wasn’t good in the snow with the tires that the car came with, but is very good with snow tires. They really make a difference.

posted by: WhoWorks? on January 21, 2014  3:22pm

Perhaps she ought to consider an Oshkosh Military vehicle…

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on January 21, 2014  3:28pm

HewNaven’s solution to the problem is for the Mayor to have TWO different cars: one for snow, one for dry roads. Why not also have a car with air conditioning in the summer and another with only heat in the winter? How about a different car for every season?
The fact is some people would complain no matter what type of car in which the mayor is driven.
The mayor should have a vehicle commensurate to the position she holds for a city the size of New Haven. The mayor is expected to travel around the state, to Hartford, and all around the city for numerous types of events. The mayor meets and greets various visiting dignitaries from around the country and around the world. Many of us feel that the mayor as representative of the city of New Haven should not be driven around in a cheap tin can run by a rubber-band,solar power or wind power. What types of automobiles do the mayors of Hartford, Bridgeport, and Stamford use?
Maybe I am a bit old fashioned, but I remember the days when Mayors Dick Lee, Bart Guida and Ben DiLieto were driven around in Lincoln town cars (or similar type automobiles). I really recall no complaints about their mode of transportation.

posted by: Pedro Soto on January 21, 2014  4:01pm

If she wants an SUV, Ben hits the nail on the head- get a compact SUV with AWD. The Ecoboost Escape is the perfect vehicle. It’s domestic, reliable and gets excellent fuel economy.

The price should certainly also be a consideration. While there may be a government discount, Explorers start at $30,000 and go up from there.

A base Escape is almost $7,000 cheaper.

The other thing that is likely a big factor, is that because Mayor Harp is being driven around in a car, she’s likely sitting in the back seat, so she may be looking for a larger vehicle that is more comfortable.

And as many comments rightly reflect- if she gets a full-size SUV, it certainly will not look very good from a political point of view- 1 mayor drove a Prius, the new one being driven in a large SUV.

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on January 21, 2014  4:04pm

I called the mayors office (203-946-8200)and politely expressed my dissatisfaction with this decision, and the decision to take two new haven police officers off the streets to drive her around. I did so because it’s become clear to me that the mayor doesn’t read the NHI or NHR. I encourage fellow NHI readers to do the same. It’s the only way to make certain your voice is heard.

posted by: robn on January 21, 2014  4:10pm


So the mayors rule should be “do what I say, not what I do.”? Its OK for the mayor to live an extravagant lifestyle while asking fellow New Havener’s to sacrifice for the common good? When exactly was that change gonna come?

posted by: absolutmakes on January 21, 2014  4:58pm

Mayor Harp is making it way too easy for her critics. She just appears to be incredibly out of touch with the community at this time.

You don’t need a big SUV to get around New Haven. Shoot, as many have mentioned, a Ford Escape EcoBoost is eco-friendly and is big enough to navigate the awful wintry conditions we face once every couple years.

I wouldn’t have commented if not for reading an article earlier today about Uruguay’s president, deemed the world’s poorest president. He drives himself to work in a 1987 VW Beetle, chooses not to live in the President’s mansion, and only uses 2 security guards at home because it’s forced on him.

If interested, here’s the clip:

posted by: HewNaven on January 21, 2014  5:07pm

Thomas Alfred Pain,

Don’t be facetious. My suggestion is that Harp uses the vehicle we have right now and not make another unnecessary purchase. IF the Prius becomes a problem, she can use one of the many other worthy vehicles in the city fleet. It seems that a certain Ford Focus is more than capable. Or, as others have suggested, suck it up and get some snow tires.

posted by: WestvilleAdvocate on January 21, 2014  5:26pm

I drive a Prius with 4 snow tires and its better than my old 4x4 truck.  this is needless spending of tax payer money on a gas guzzler, the driver to drive it and another purchase on my dime.

posted by: alex on January 21, 2014  5:54pm

I support Mayor Harp here. The mayor shouldn’t be getting stuck as she drives (or is driven) around town.

Regarding Ford Explorers vs. Ford Escapes, etc, keep in mind that there’s a procurement process:

“She and Scott said they haven’t yet settled on a specific model to purchase. It will have four-wheel drive, Harp said.”

posted by: robn on January 21, 2014  6:01pm

All Wheel Drive!
All Wheel Drive!

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on January 21, 2014  7:35pm

How about an armored H3?  Good in the snow and protection from whatever it is she needs a police escort for.

posted by: Sean on January 21, 2014  8:43pm

Wow.  Question to everyone: how many cities the size of New Haven have mayors who get new cars, plus two cops plus overtime spent on them?  Then how many cities the size of New Haven with our state of finances have the same spend? 

Rest of us get by fine.  This is so messed up that immediate activities after taking office have been to hand out favors and take care of herself rather than address the burning house around her.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on January 21, 2014  10:47pm

Is the deliberately TRYING to alienate people who share Elicker’s values?  How bloody tone-deaf can you get?????!

Or is she now going to say she didn’t know about it; somebody bought the Explorer without telling her?

Give me a BREAK.

posted by: William Kurtz on January 21, 2014  11:52pm

“The mayor shouldn’t be getting stuck as she drives (or is driven) around town.”

True enough. How many times did Mayor DeStefano get stuck in a Prius? I know that last year I was one of several people who had to help push Chief Esserman and his oversized SUV out of the snow at the corner of Orange and Willow. I have pictures to prove it. Best car I ever drove in the snow was a Subaru Outback.

I don’t know what the mayors of other towns do. I know Mayor Picard of West Haven used to drive himself places. I suppose it all depends on what kind of message Mayor Harp wants to send.

posted by: MDURSO on January 22, 2014  2:54pm

What a waste of money!!! She’s cost the taxpayer more money in month between police escorts and a explorer.  My car drives bad in the snow too, maybe the city should buy me one.. What a Joke keep spending the taxpayer hard earned money and she’s going to find herself out of a job quick!!!!!!!!!

posted by: Shaggybob on January 22, 2014  3:10pm

I’m sorry, but there are already plenty of city owned cars for this.(as Ben mentioned) That money can be spent elsewhere for much better purposes.
If she really wants to show her dedication to the City then she should buy her own car.
Or better yet convince her family to pay the back taxes owed for the house she lives in (not owns) so we can afford to pay for this.

posted by: Indigo on January 22, 2014  3:49pm

So much for Harp’s big concern about global warming. Also, fiscal responsibility. We’re in New Haven, Mrs. Harp, not Montreal. Somehow our family manages to live here winter after winter driving a Prius, with absolutely no problem.

posted by: FacChec on January 22, 2014  5:01pm

According to the Kelly Blue Book:;=&persistedcondition;=&quizconditions;=&options;=&path;=&vehicleid=3510&mileage=130000

A nine year old car with 130K miles in very good condition is valued at $4900, changing cars after nine years seems about right for this 2004 prius. I will point out however, that a 2004 Hybrid Prius comes with FWD standard. Harp’s reasoning that this change is a required due to the need for more traction, is not creditable.

posted by: FacChec on January 22, 2014  5:17pm

I’m sorry,

I said “Harp’s reasoning that this change is a required due to the need for more traction, is not creditable”.

I meant, is creditable. The 2004 Prius has Front wheel drive as standard equipment.

posted by: ipsca on January 22, 2014  8:09pm


Why is the traction issue suddenly a problem now? How did DeStefano deal with this? How often is Mayor Harp really venturing out in the ice and snow with the Prius?

Sure, maybe nine years is a long time to have a car, but given the city’s dire financial straits, it would be nice to see the mayor making an effort to keep spending in check. And as all the other commenters have pointed out, there are lots of cheaper options here.

posted by: Brewski on January 23, 2014  5:04pm

Ridiculous. Get a Subaru. It doesn’t need to be a hybrid. She wants the city to buy her a big brand new car and she doesn’t care about fuel economy.