Bulletproofing a car in Mexico costs from $25,000 to $55,000

Perceptions of growing insecurity have driven demand for armored vehicles in Mexico, spurring an industry that caters to the safety concerns of the country's political and economic elite.

According to a report by El País, sales of bulletproof vehicles in Mexico rose 10 percent over the past two years, an increase attributed to growing private demand.

"Last year 75 percent of our business was private sales. As well as top businessmen and wealthy families, customers now include people from medium-size businesses and workers who spend the entire day on the streets and are concerned for their safety," Fernando Echeverri said.

Echeverri is a Colombian national and president of Ballistic Group, an armored car producer in Mexico's Federal District. Himself a kidnapping victim of Colombian guerrillas, Echeverri helped popularize Colombia's armored car industry in the 1990s before later expanding his business to Mexico.

Mexico's armored car industry generates around $150 million per year and 10,000 jobs, reported El País. Bulletproofing a vehicle costs between $25,000 and $55,000, leaving it an option only for Mexico's wealthy.

For Echeverri, business boomed during the administration of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón (2006 – 2012). But when current President Enrique Peña Nieto took office, Echeverri lamented how his administration "didn't buy anything" during the first year, leading to a 25 percent drop in sales.

Private demand, however, is leading to renewed growth. The highest number of sales come from the city of Monterrey and the Federal District.

Echeverri said no one has been killed in one of his company's cars, although he recounted several assassination attempts. "If they killed a client it would kill my business," Echeverri remarked.

InSight Crime Analysis

As El País notes, the rise in bulletproof vehicle sales contrasts with Mexico's gradually improving security indicators. Although homicides increased slightly last year, Mexico's 2015 murder rate of around 16 per 100,000 citizens was well below the highs experienced during the Calderón era. And, according to official figures, kidnapping rates have also declined, falling over 30 percent through the first 10 months of 2015 compared to the same period of 2014.

Yet these security improvements have not resulted in improved perceptions of insecurity, which could help explain why Mexican elites are increasing demand for armored transportation. This rise may also indicate a certain level of distrust in the ability of government security forces to provide adequate protection from criminal activity.

SEE ALSO: InDepth: NarcoCulture

Elites, however, are not the only segment of Mexican society that has been retrofitting their vehicles. Criminal groups have also been known to construct "Mad Max-style" vehicles, with El País recounting the 2011 seizure of a behemoth, 30-ton armored "narco-tank" belonging to the ultra-violent Zetas gang. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...