Market grows for bulletproof cars

The new Lincoln Town Car BPS will look very much llike the standard model pictured here, which security experts say is the whole idea.
The new Lincoln Town Car BPS will look very much llike the standard model pictured here, which security experts say is the whole idea.
/ Source: CNBC

Last month, Ford Motor Company announced it will start selling a bulletproof version of its Lincoln Town Car. It’s the latest sign of increased demand for cars and trucks that can withstand a violent attack. So who’s buying these armored cars and how much do they cost?

It's the kind of thing you see in a James Bond movie: a bullet proof car weaving it’s way through a barrage of bullets. In the movies, Bond and his car always escape with barely a scratch. In real life, when cars and trucks are fired on, it’s a much different story. Which helps explain why more and more people are driving bullet proof cars and trucks.

Eight year’s ago, there were roughly 4,000 armored vehicles sold every year worldwide. By last year, that number had jumped to 18,000.

“What we found in the last few years is that the idea of a security vehicle has transcended an armored car or body guard,” said Rob Allen at Mercedes. “It’s become an part of life depending on what level you are.”

To meet that demand in the U.S., Mercedes now sells an armored version of it’s S Series sedan; BMW also offers bulletproof models. And Lincoln will soon start selling a “ballistic protection series” model of its Town Car. It comes complete with bulletproof glass and “run-flat” tires that keep the car moving even after the original tire has been shot. The price: about $140,000, or roughly a $100,000 more than the current town car. Who would pay that much for this kind of protection?

“It could be the leader of a country or a company with a specific profession because of the valuables of services they offer, or a person that lives in a dangerous area,” said Ford spokesman Rick Body. “It could be a soccer Mom that perceives risk, if it is true or not, we are not the ones to argue with them.”

Wayne Brown in Austin, Texas has been putting body armor on existing cars and trucks for 12 years.

“In this case, the pistol will not penetrate that or if someone rolls a hand grenade under your car, the hand grenade fragments will be contained by this quilt,” he said.

Most of his customers do business in Mexico and South America. So they want body armored cars to protect them from being assaulted or kidnapped.

“As soon as you cross the border, at least going south, you encounter guns that the likes of we do not see around here, you see AK-47’s, things that would shock you,” said Brown. “That’s just the way it is around the world. Except here we are lucky.”

Things may be safer on most roads in America, but there are still plenty of Americans who want car that stops a high powered gun shot.

In fact, at Howard Becker’s body armoring shop in Oxnard, Calif., sales have tripled in the last five years, with many of the sales being to rich and famous Americans who want protection from real or perceived threats.

“Some of them are famous people whose names you would recognize,” he said. “There are many who would be classified as business leaders and certainly a number of foreign dignitaries.”

While we may never see a truly bulletproof vehicle that deflects shots like a Bond car, the latest model will keep drivers safe and provide peace of mind in an increasingly violent world.

Ford is saying its car will offer a smoother ride than if someone had taken their car and body armored it in the aftermarket. It’s a growing market that Ford is hoping to tap into.