By on June 27, 2018

It’s an exciting time to be a manufacturer of bulletproof cars. Violent crime in Latin America is booming right now. For example, growing levels of drug-related violence made 2017 Mexico’s most murderous year on record, based on government statistics.

The problem has resulted in a 10-percent increase in demand for the nation’s car-armoring services this year, according to the Mexican Automotive Armor Association. Still, Mexico’s 3,284 bullet-resistant cars are nothing compared to the 15,145 vehicles armored in Brazil last year. That country holds an even higher murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants.

The armoring industry expects to see a 25 percent jump this year, as both governments predict further increases in crime. As a consequence, some automakers have decided to simply start offering from-the-factory protection to eliminate the customer’s need to seek bulletproofing elsewhere. 

According to Reuters, Audi began production of an armored version of its Q5 in the central state of Puebla in mid-2017 for local sale and export to high-risk countries like Brazil and Argentina. Audi claimed its bulletproof Q5, which costs $87,000 locally, was an affordable alternative for consumers vs aftermarket firms. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Jeep have provided armored cars to Mexico (and elsewhere) for several years.

Some of their offerings are incredibly elaborate. Mercedes, which has been in the security vehicle business longer than most, even goes as far as offering an emergency fresh air supply to protect occupants from smoke or irritant gases, as well as automatic fire suppressant systems, in addition to the usual ballistic protection. We suppose that’s just the thing for heading into hostile territory.

If you’re wondering how dangerous these countries are right now, Brazil had 29.53 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016, while the Mexican murder rate was closer to 19.26. South and Central America typically rank exceptionally high in the global murder rankings, along with the Caribbean. El Salvador, Honduras, and Venezuela are among the most dangerous, with murder rates well above 50 per 100,000 people. All of these figures are expected to rise in 2018.

For a point of comparison, Canada’s murder rate in 2016 was a scant 1.68 while the United States’ was around 5.35. But, according to the FBI, violence in the U.S. has been on the rise over the last two years following a long and steady decline, and gun violence is often disproportionately high. There’s also more money there for customers to spend on retrofitting high-end sport utility vehicles with bulletproof glass and reinforced doors. As a result, North America and Western Europe are expected to account for more than half of the total market share for armored vehicles over the next few years.

Interestingly, firearms don’t play into Latin America’s problem as much as one might think. Despite gun violence being a perpetual concern, the brunt of firearm deaths remain self-inflicted. While bulletproofing a vehicle does protect the driver from projectiles, many who purchase them don’t have gunfire on their mind.

“One of the crimes that hurts us most is kidnapping, that’s what we’re afraid of,” explains Arturo Avila, who operates a security company in Mexico City. Avila said he had been assaulted and robbed multiple times in recent years and now drives armored cars exclusively.

Security firms frequently rent or lease specially equipped vehicles to affluent customers worried about personal security, yet direct sales remain the bulk of the business. It’s definitely a strange business, and one that still accounts for just a tiny fraction of the overall auto industry. But it’s also growing. More rental services have cropped up in metropolitan areas across the globe, manufacturers are now providing from-the-factory armoring, aftermarket firms are making money, and sales projections look to stay strong.

[Images: BMW Group; Daimler]

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25 Comments on “Crime Pushes Bulletproof Vehicle Production to Record High...”

  • avatar

    Bullet resistant.

  • avatar

    Shame as I’ve always wanted to visit Brazil, Rio to be exact.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The warranty exclusions undoubtedly make interesting reading.

  • avatar

    I’d go for T’Challa’s bulletproof Lexus LC.

  • avatar

    Many years ago I got to ride in a 740iL Protection Series (E38.) It was pretty awesome. Aside from the blatantly thick glass you couldn’t tell it had been armored. It had an external intercom system you could use to communicate with people outside while “buttoned up” inside.

  • avatar

    What do they use to reinforce the door panels?

  • avatar

    There’s a firm doing armored Toyota Camrys too. For exciting and extensively boring times.

  • avatar

    Nobody mentioned “Tr$mp” word yet? Because of all that violence?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s funny to think the dems who love to masquerade as human rights activists would be well aware of what’s going down there. Of course they don’t care about the safety of John Q Public on the ground and simply hope to gain new imported voters. A despicable group of people and the same or ignorant are those that vote for them. ; ]

  • avatar

    > Violent crime in Latin America is booming right now.

    It’s a good time to invest in violent crime stocks – some analysts are predicting yearly returns of anywhere between 8-12%.

    All due to the insatiable appetite for drugs in this country (that part was conveniently left out of the equation).

  • avatar

    These vehicles only deter the “target of opportunity” attacks from low level criminals.

    I saw a post on a gore site a few years ago about some drug dealer on the border of Brazil and Paraguay. Guy had a habit of flaunting his wealth, and drove an armored SUV. Whoever wanted him dead brought their A Game: they had an M2 .50 cal heavy machine gun on a custom tripod bolted into the interior of a minivan. They set up a complex ambush with dismounted assassins who fired on and drove away his bodyguards while the minivan blocked the road and lit up the target’s SUV.

    I’m sure none of these up-armored cars are proof against that kind of ordnance. But I would still buy one. Hell, I wouldn’t mind an up-armored car in the United States, in case I’m pulled over for Driving While Black.

    • 0 avatar

      If you annoy the US military sufficiently, there isn’t much of anything sufficiently bullet resistant to let you sleep well at night….

      In Latin America, the practical problem wealthier people face, is that of opportunistic crime. Unless you are a major drug trafficker or guerrilla-honcho, you’re not likely to be jumped by an army platoon armed with bunker busters.

      The upspec glass and body panels on “bullet-proof” cars, will slow down most entry attempts long enough to allow you to make a getaway. Then the wannabe kidnappers will look for a softer target instead. With ever increasing desperation, this may change (say Venezuela going full party-like-it’s-Mogadishu-1993); but for now, the problem is violent street crime, not open warfare.

  • avatar

    I’ll have to look into this as I live in Chicago. 24 per 100,000 here so right up there with the worst countries… Always thought I would get something else for my next vehicle

  • avatar

    Argentina? Wha? I was there recently and it was peaceful, BA was like being in Europe where I’m from. Central America, Mex and big Brazilian cities on the other hand…

  • avatar

    I am sure you can buy different levels of bullet resistance including .50BMG AP rounds.

    A shotgun slug will go through 1.25″ bullet resistant glass easily.

  • avatar

    But they come to our country as an act of love!

  • avatar

    When your car is bullet resistant you know you’ve been touched by diversity. Kidnapping is part of a wonderful culture and should be embraced. Stronger together.

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