Ford kept selling Crown Victoria police cars even after several officers died in fiery rear-end crashes that allegedly showed the cruisers were unsafe, a lawyer for Illinois police departments reportedly told a jury on Wednesday.

“That policy of minimising safety to maximise profits is at the heart of why we’re here today,” attorney David Perry said at the opening of the first class-action lawsuit to come to trial over the cruisers’ safety, according to the Associated Press (AP). “You will hear the company say these crashes are rare. These officers were rare, too.”

Lawyers for Ford reportedly argued the vehicle is safe – but is involved in police crashes because officers are more likely to travel at high speeds and park at the sides of highways.

“I don’t mean to minimise or trivialise police fatalities,” Ford lawyer James Feeney reportedly told jurors. “But the question here is whether this car is reasonably safe for police work, and it is.”

AP noted that, since 1983, 14 officers have died after their cruisers were rear-ended. The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office and nearby Centreville Police Departments sued, accusing Ford of fraud and deceptive trade practices in a bid to force the company to retrofit cruisers with special safety equipment.

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Ford’s lawyer reportedly showed jurors videotape of a rear-end crash at 100 mph involving a Crown Victoria that didn’t erupt into flames, in an effort to bolster claims such incidents occur in only a small percentage of accidents that cannot be predicted. “With some of these officers, no vehicle could have saved them,” Feeney said, according to AP.

The report said lawyers have declined to estimate how much losing the case would cost Ford, which is facing a tough international auto marketplace and is still recovering from costly litigation involving rollovers by its Explorer SUV.