Efrain Jesús Rojas: Dealerships Selling Armored Cars

“Business doubled last year,” says Joe Scaletta, president of Scaletta Moloney Armoring in Chicago. It is one of the biggest armored-car manufacturers in the USA, performing armoring for automakers as well as selling several hundred cars a year on its own.They are the first domestic brands to offer extreme protection as a dealer accessory. The automakers hope customers will prefer the convenience of ordering through auto dealers instead of shopping for an armorer.

“We have more interest from entertainers, sports people, high-profile people,” he says, because of anxiety about terrorism, especially reprisals for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Armoring companies and automakers won’t say how much the war has boosted interest, because they don’t want to be seen as capitalizing on fear. Automakers also emphasize their plans have been afoot since well before the war.

“This is not something we just thought up over the past couple of months,” says Kerry Christopher, Cadillac spokesman.

Lincoln parent Ford Motor estimates that 22,0000 armored cars were sold worldwide by all manufacturers last year, up from 5,000 in 1995. Sales have grown 20% each of the last two years.

Lincoln began developing its armored program two years ago “because the growth was phenomenal,” says spokesman Mike Vaughn. “And it’s profitable.”

If a customer orders an armored Lincoln from a Lincoln dealer, the car will be sent to International Armoring in Ogden, Utah, for the work, then goes to the dealership for delivery to the buyer.

Cadillacs will go to Scaletta Moloney, which is setting up a facility at Detroit for the Caddy work. The finished car is shipped to the dealer for delivery to the buyer.

Armoring takes about 45 days, adds 2,000 pounds more or less, and triples or quadruples the price.

The cars:

  • Lincoln will offer a Town Car Ballistic Protection Series (BPS) this summer, priced at $140,000. A base Town Car is $41,535.

Only 15 dealers will be authorized to sell the BPS. Lincoln won’t say if it will increase that number.

The Town Car BPS will have a bullet-resistant body and windows that can stop shots from a high-power rifle. It also will have run-flat tires, leak-resistant fuel tank and bomb-resistant blast shields.

  • Cadillac plans an armored DeVille sedan in the fall through some dealers. No price is set, and Caddy won’t disclose other details.
  • Mercedes-Benz has been selling the S500 Guard priced at $156,000, roughly twice the price of a non-armored S500. Spokeswoman Michelle Murad says it will withstand fire from a .44-caliber Magnum. The company sold 11 in the USA in 2001, and 21 in ’02, she says.

Armor business hasn’t been great for all who’ve tried. BMW discontinued what it called a Protection version of the 7 Series sedan after selling 74 in 2000 and ’01. It costs too much to modify the specially equipped cars to meet federal regulations, says spokesman Dave Buchko.

Scaletta says he’s gotten inquiries lately about cars that can be sealed against chemical or biological attacks. He says there’s a way to do that, providing breathing air from an air tank in the car.

But he considers that hush-hush and won’t say more — except that such a package is likely to run $300,000.

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