Ford's latest attempt to offer a solution for the allegedly fire-prone Crown Victoria police cruiser drew mixed reviews from police groups, indicating controversy over the vehicle's safety is likely to continue, the Detroit News said.

The newspaper said Ford announced at a New York City news conference on Thursday that it would begin offering an optional fire-suppression system with 2005 models of the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor.

"This is a good start by Ford to recognise there is a problem," Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, told the Detroit News, adding: "Now they need to solve the problem. They ought to be socially responsible and fix the thousands of cars on the road today."

The newspaper noted that, on Monday, the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police passed a resolution calling for all law enforcement agencies to halt 'Crown Vic' purchases until Ford offers a new remedy.

The Detroit News added that police groups and attorneys general around the United States have been concerned about the Crown Vic over a rash of fire deaths following rear-end collisions - at least 13 officers have died since 1992.

According to the newspaper, critics say the placement of the Crown Vic's fuel tank, behind the rear axle, leaves it especially vulnerable to rupture in a high-speed collision and, last year, Ford offered to place plastic shields around the fuel tank at locations it was most likely to rupture.

This in itself caused further controversy. US TV news channels recently reported that a police department's tests of modified cars resulted in allegations they were even more prone to ruptured fuel tank fires, while critics retorted that the police were demanding the Crown Vic meet a crash safety standard beyond the ability of a regular production car.

The Detroit News said the bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General formed a task force to study Crown Vic safety in June after, in May, the city of Dallas issued a moratorium on future Crown Victoria purchases until Ford offers a solution.

Dallas city attorney Madeleine Johnson reportedly said Ford should make the fire-suppression system standard equipment, the paper noted.

The Detroit News said Ford has not found a fire-suppression technology reliable enough to offer as a fix for existing cars and continues to stand by the safety of the Crown Vic.

"Until we, as a society, eliminate high-speed accidents, we will never eliminate fire," Ford vice president of environmental and safety engineering, Sue Cischke, told the Detroit News, adding: "The potential of a fuel leak, while rare, is part of the risk of every high-speed accident."