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Latino Daily News

Monday November 15, 2010

Vehicle Bulletproofing: The new Boom Business in Mexico (VIDEO)

A growing number of Mexicans see bulletproofing their vehicles as a necessity and not a luxury;  in a country that has an “alarming” rate of carjackings and ransom abductions, these days, Carlos Nader, owner of Protecto Glass International says,  “everyone’s a target in Mexico.”

Nader drives the traffic jammed streets of Mexico in a bulletproof Mercedes-Benz, equipped with pepper spray and a 120-decibel alarm.

He has had bullets ricochet off his car and one time,  scared away a criminal by blasting his alarm, which is as loud as a jet engine.

With the increasing street violence, the number of people seeking protection has grown exponentially, and if bullet-proof vehicles were once a high-class precaution, Nader says he’s been getting approached by the common folk more and more:  “is regular guys that work, maybe they have a small business and have been approached by criminals to steal their car.”

Twenty years ago, armored cars barely existed in Mexico. Bulletproofing was only for the wealthiest businessmen and most powerful politicians. Today, armoring companies say they armor Ferraris for celebrities, SUVs for executives and politicians, and even Nissans for young professionals and small-business owners.

“You’ll see Hondas, small SUVs ... pickups,” Nader said of some of the vehicles arriving at his business.

Even though exact figures for the industry are not disclosed, the Mexican Association of Automobile Armorers, reports an annual growth rate of 10% in recent years and values the market at $80 million per year.

New bulletproof cars cost around $70,000. Bulletproofing your otherwise vulnerable vehicle can take up to 12 weeks and cost up to $80,000. The demand for bulletproofing has created a bonanza for U.S. companies. sThe rise in kidnappings helped the business as well. Anti-crime groups say Mexico City is No. 1 in the world in kidnappings, both ransom-abductions, and kidnappings where victims were forced to withdraw money from an ATM.

Nader suspects that the spread of such “express kidnappings” was a big reason for the rise in demand for his services among people of more moderate incomes.

“Bulletproofing became more democratic,” he said.