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

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...

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

A Look Inside El Salvador's Prison Nightmare (Video)

A Look Inside El Salvador's Prison Nightmare (Video)

El Salvador's Cojutepeque jail is a perfect illustration of how prisons in this country have become the main breeding and training grounds for street gangs.

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with the seemingly intractable issue of street gangs. But it also creates new dangers.

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.