Technology, a Friend and Foe for Armoring CompaniesBy Alejandro Salas | Fri, 03/29/2019 - 05:00
Q: How is Total Shield’s client base divided between the public and private sectors?
A: In 2018, we armored almost 100 cars, of which 70 percent were for private clients and the rest for different government offices. Sales in each sector vary year to year, depending on the number of government tenders. The largest, which required around 70 armored vehicles, occurred under the administration of former President Felipe Calderon. Afterward, tenders were greatly reduced in size. In 2017, we saw tenders for up to 25 cars but most were for state governments for three or four vehicles. At the moment, there is still uncertainty in the armoring industry due to the new administration’s austerity policies, which might increase competition in the sector. The government works with the largest armoring companies in the country and we expect to participate.
Our strategy for the private sector is to introduce more specialized products. Our clients can be individuals or large banks, as well as corporations that also operate through tenders and can buy up to 20 vehicles at a time.
Q: How have Total Shield’s operations improved since the company joined the Mexican Association of Vehicle Armorers (AMBA)?
A: AMBA brings together the best and largest companies in the field. To become a member of AMBA it is necessary to have an ISO certification, follow strong quality policies and armor a certain number of cars per year. Due to the strictness of its regulations, AMBA had not accepted a new company for many years before we became members. The association has also not accepted any new members since our entrance in 2014. Many armoring companies only last a few years before shutting down due to the difficulty of establishing long-lasting operations in this area.
Q: What should customers look for when acquiring an armored vehicle?
A: Customers should only employ armorers registered with state authorities because these use the best materials and have good assembly processes. About 70 percent of the armorers in Mexico are certified by local authorities; the rest operate without any certification on the quality of the materials they use.
Working with an uncertified company will not seem like a bad decision until it is too late. Moreover, the market changes quickly and many small companies appear one year and disappear the next. If a vehicle faces an issue down the road and the armorer no longer exists, customers will have no recourse to claim damages. Materials must also be certified according to Mexican regulations. We often receive offers from international suppliers, but the weapons used abroad are different from those used in Mexico, so in some cases we cannot use these materials.
Q: Which alliances has Total Shield developed with brands and distributors to armor their vehicles?
A: Some vehicles can be armored from the first steps of the assembly process and leave production lines fully equipped. Others must be dismantled, armored and then assembled again. We have allied with different OEMs to armor their cars, although it is also possible to deal directly with car vendors. In both cases, the warranty offered to the final client covering the quality and integrity of the vehicle is respected.
With few exceptions, most brands armor their cars after production. We have agreements with many car distributors and we armor their cars after they are sold, according to client requests. Our most popular model to armor is the Grand Cherokee thanks to its structure, which easily adapts to armoring levels NJ-IIIA to NJ-III+. Most of the cars we armor are SUVs, which are better suited for emergency situations. But we also keep some armored sedans in stock, including Volkswagen Passats, as they are more discreet. However, few individuals look for these types of cars.
Q: How do you expect electrification to impact the armored vehicles industry in Mexico?
A: The main challenge armorers face in Mexico is adapting to the technology of new vehicles. Armoring goes against many modernization trends, which focus on electrification and using smaller engines. Armored cars need a powerful powertrain because the process adds significant weight to the car. For instance, our level NJ-III+ adds 1.5tons of weight to the vehicle. Similarly, many OEMs are introducing cars with a high concentration of aluminum and plastic components, which armorers cannot fuse to steel. Armorers continue to invest in innovation to adapt to modernization trends. We are now armoring hybrid vehicles, which has proven to be a very complex process that requires us to work with experts from OEMs.
Total Shield is a Mexican company with over 15 years of experience in vehicle armoring. The company became a member of AMBA in 2014 and works with several dealership groups