Security Concerns Democratize Armoring, Boost DiversificationBy Andrea Villar | Fri, 03/29/2019 - 05:00
Around the world, there are many factors powering the rising demand for armored vehicles, but in Mexico, insecurity is the main reason. “Security in Mexico has been a significant and deteriorating issue across the administrations of Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto. Demand for our products increased considerably between 2006 and 2012 as a consequence of rising crime rates, and peaked in 2012 with a total demand for 3,300 units,” says Director General of TPS Armoring Rodolfo Amozurrutia.
Most security-related incidents take place during commutes. In Mexico, armoring companies focus on protection against three main kinds of incidents: urban muggings, kidnappings and violent attacks. “Ensuring a person’s well-being during an incident is 90 percent about prevention and only 10 percent about knowing how to react. Depending on the level of risk our potential users face, we offer them appropriate solutions. Some people are at risk of being kidnapped due to their social status, the kind of organization they work for or their executive level. Meanwhile, high-ranking public officers who work in security matters may face violent attempts on their lives,” says Amozurrutia.
The Right Fit
Rising crime rates have not only boosted demand for armored vehicles among C-level executives. “Over the past decade, the public sector accounted for approximately 20 percent of our sales but that has changed over time. When security concerns rose in 2006, demand for armored vehicles rose among public officers. By 2012, the government accounted for 40 percent of TPS Armoring’s vehicle sales,” says Amozurrutia.
“Fifteen years ago, there were fewer buyers of armored vehicles, mostly top government officials and chairmen of large multinational boards,” says Daniel Echeverri, Commercial Director of Ballistic Group. However, midlevel executives now also have the need and opportunity to purchase an armored vehicle as a consequence of rising crime rates. “Some people are interested in more discrete vehicles and will invest in an armoring worth three times the price of the original car,” says Echeverri. “These clients prefer to go unnoticed during their commutes and are not interested in large, flamboyant SUVs, which has incentivized demand for more austere armored cars.”
As more clients look for an armoring solution, Echeverri suggests clients focus on quality instead of price, making sure armoring companies have quality certifications, invest in product development and are members of the Mexican Association of Vehicle-armoring Companies (AMBA). These companies are subjected to ballistic-certification processes and are evaluated by a committee of experts in the field to guarantee quality standards. “This association seeks quality and ethics in armoring. When a person buys an armored car, it is an act of faith. There are eight companies in the association and we always ensure that the materials we use are certified and that our installation practices are appropriate to preserve the integrity of the car.” says President of Global Armor José Eduardo Llanos, who has been AMBA’s president for three consecutive periods. Though this has translated to more opportunities for traditional bulletproofing companies in Mexico, Echeverri says it has also created a breeding ground of armoring companies that work with noncertified and nonvalidated materials, which could endanger passengers.
Echeverri expects demand for new armored vehicles in Mexico to drop in the public sector as a consequence of the federal government’s austerity policy. “The public sector will still need these units but in smaller volumes, so Mexico’s vehicle armoring industry may lose dynamism,” he says. Despite these projections, he says Ballistic Group remains optimistic about its sales results for the year. “As long as the Mexican economy remains strong, stable and growing, we expect to armor and deliver close to 300 vehicles by the end of 2019.”
A major challenge armoring companies face is the trend in the automotive industry to reduce the weight of vehicle components. “Cars are now very delicate and over the years the entire industry will reduce weight. However, we are already prepared. Previously, level III armor added 400kg to the car while now it adds just 200kg,” says Llanos.
Also, criminal groups are constantly innovating in their weapons and techniques, rendering bulletproofing materials like aramid fibers moot. To stay a step ahead, Ballistic Group is constantly developing and improving materials to protect clients in case of a shooting. “Criminals add more gunpowder to their bullets or elongate gun barrels to increase their firepower, so we need to constantly invest in R&D,” says Echeverri. “Windows are usually a weak spot in the car, so we fabricate our own bulletproof glass to enhance the armoring level of the vehicle.”