Esteban Hernández López
Director General
Auto Safe International
View from the Top

Securing Vehicles AMID Global Threats

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 14:26

Q: What are the major challenges for the armoring sector regarding car manufacturers?

A: Armoring companies have to accommodate new electronic and intelligent components such as suspensions. Manufacturing plants also are becoming increasingly specialized, which limits the armoring processes that can be performed on the same production line. For example, while Volkswagen has a production rate of one car per minute, an armored car takes up to three days to complete, making it impossible to integrate both processes. A quality armoring process requires an investment of millions of dollars in a limited number of vehicles, which means the company cannot compete on price with cheaper, lowerquality solutions. Moreover, the electronics in a vehicle are designed to control a lighter unit, so adding an extra 500kg or more confuses the computer’s control systems. Security is a concern internationally, so a solution must be found, as demand for armored cars will continue. General Motors is innovating in response. It recently launched a truck designed for armoring and for the needs of the Mexican market. Built to resist the extra weight of heavy armor, this is the first vehicle of its type, and may lead to a trend among all OEMs to develop special editions for armoring purposes.

Only 2,000 units of all vehicles sold in the domestic market go through armoring processes. Auto Safe has two client segments, the public and the private sectors. Unfortunately, the government has not acquired a significant number of units in two years, which has dented the sector because public clients represented approximately 30 percent of the market.

Q: How can you adapt your solutions to products that have not been designed for armoring purposes?

A: Unless OEMs create a version of their vehicles for armoring purposes, we cannot really intervene in their design process. However, we have become stricter when looking for lighter materials and we work hand-in-hand with suspension manufacturers to replace intelligent units that cannot be armored with mechanical, more robust components. Glass suppliers are crucial partners in the process, along with brake and electronics producers.

We must also consider the load and towing capacity of the vehicles as two fundamental variables in our design process. Load capacity is controlled by the suspension and it relates to how much additional weight a unit can hold. This is not a problem with mechanical components but we cannot carry the same process across to adaptive air suspensions, airbags and compressors. Therefore, we must equip the vehicle with a lower level of armor or trick the computer into thinking it still has its original components.

Q: How do you manage maintenance and repair operations?

A: We are aware of which components are most likely to need replacing and conduct roadworthiness checkups every 5,000km instead of the standard 10,000km. After any incident, perpetrated or accidental, every affected ballistic and nonballistic component must be replaced. Additionally, it is crucial that all active and passive safety components remain fully functional, including airbags, ABS and sensors that tend to the passenger. These repairs are complicated and certain insurance companies prefer cheaper service shops that may not have the necessary ballistic background to do a proper restoration. For that reason, we always recommend our clients bring their units back to us, even if it represents an additional cost.

Q: How are you working to decrease wait times for customers who buy customized vehicles?

A: Clients are increasingly choosing immediate delivery over customization. Today at least 50 percent prefer immediate delivery units, resulting in at least one vehicle sold per week at our dealership. Few clients want to wait 12 weeks to get another vehicle after an accident. Nevertheless, armoredvehicle clients are varied, so we must have a broad offering for immediate delivery to cover at least the basic demands from our users in terms of colors and features. The easiest way to reduce wait times is having all the components available. Steel and metal components are easily obtainable, but our ballistic glass suppliers are abroad and manufacturing the components takes three to four weeks. We have a rental service for any eventuality and a substitution policy if the client has a problem with their vehicle.