Armored cars are cool, but a world where they're not needed would be even cooler.
Just because you haven't been hearing about the violence in Mexico lately doesn't mean that it isn't taking place. In fact, the problem is only getting worse. This year is expected to be the most deadly ever, with 21,200 homicides taking place through September according to NBC Dallas Fort-Worth. That makes for a 26% increase over last year, and the rise in violence is fueling growth in a typically niche industry: the armored car sector. As much as we love these cars, we don't love the pressures that cause them to be needed.
Not many automakers will sell armored versions of their cars straight from the factory and those that do tend to sell high-end vehicles that make their occupants more conspicuous than they need to be, which means that business is being funneled to aftermarket tuners that specialize in turning everyday passenger sedans and SUVs into armored cars capable of resisting anything from bullets from a handgun to large rounds shot from an AK-47. One of the largest manufacturers is EPEL, which has its facilities in populous Mexico City and is responsible for supplying both the Mexican military and citizens in need of protection. Roughly 40% of EPEL's cars are sold to the military, meaning the other 60% is offloaded to civilians.
The spike in violence has gotten so bad that the company is experiencing annual growth of 20%. Most of its civilian customers consist of business owners subject to kidnapping and theft, but not every wealthy CEO is capable of plunking down the $35,000-$85,000 it takes to get behind the shell of armor. To cater to this threatened buyer, EPEL has started a leasing program. "More people can pay that quote month-by-month, instead of paying in advance a good amount of money," said Ernesto Mizrahi, CEO of EPEL. As any compassionate human does, Mizrahi still hopes for less violence. "All of our families are suffering this crisis. We hope it goes down, and we can change our market to doing limousines or whatever." We'd like that too.