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Narco Blog: Armored Car Orders Up Across Many Professions in Mexico

Narco Blog: Armored Car Orders Up Across Many Professions in Mexico

Photo: Armored Cars in Mexico

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The Mexican armored-car industry will close the year with a 10 percent growth over 2010 as the prevailing violence in Mexico drives more and more business leaders and government officials to seek the protection of its products, an industry official said.

More than 2,500 armored cars have been manufactured in 2011, the vice president of the Mexican Association of Automotive Armor-Plating, Mauricio Natale, said Thursday, adding that the industry has begun armor-plating medium-priced cars costing between 200,000 and 400,000 pesos ($14,800 and $29,600).

The industry has developed improved armor-plating technology for lighter vehicles and ones that a few years ago were not considered capable of providing protection, he said in a communique.

“They’re not necessarily luxury vehicles, but cars or SUVs with good technology” that aren’t considered top of the line, Natale, who is also an executive of the TPS Armoring company, said.

They are owned by directors, mid-level civil servants or entrepreneurs with medium-sized businesses, he said, referring to the trend toward a “democratization” of armored cars in the country.

Natale said that the growing demand has made Mexico the second largest market for automotive armor-plating in Latin America after Brazil.

The executive recalled one of the success stories of TPS Armoring, a firm based in the northern city of Monterrey, that involved former Michoacan state Police Chief Minerva Bautista, whose life was saved by armor-plating in a 2010 attack with grenades and hundreds of gunshots.

Officials in the sector say that in Mexico, 70 percent of armored cars are SUVs and the remaining 30 percent are automobiles, and that in recent years the government has increased it demand for those products.

The armor allows car windows to withstand bullets shot from handguns and even AK-47, AR-15 and Galil assault rifles, thanks to the layers of polyvinyl, polycarbonate and acrylics from 40 to 60 millimeters (1 1/2 to 2 1/3 inches) thick with which they are covered.

The vehicles are also protected with steel plates 10 millimeters (2/5 of an inch) thick and sheets of polyvinyl.

Drug-related violence over the past five years in Mexico has left nearly 50,000 dead and shootouts between drug cartel enforcers and security forces in public places have become commonplace.