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Armored car production hits record high in Mexico

This isn't the kind of automobile production you want to celebrate, necessarily.

Armored Cars
An automobile is fitted with bulletproof material at a factory in Sao Paolo, Brazil. (Sorry, Getty didn't have any from Mexico.)
Danny Lehman/Getty Images

Usually a boom in vehicle production warrants celebration, but not when it's armored cars.

Growing violence in Mexico has kick-started the country's armored-car business, Reuters reports. The country recorded more than 25,000 murders in 2017, the highest number "since modern records began." 2018 isn't going to be much better. As a result, the Mexican Automotive Armor Association (AMBA) estimates that this will lead to a 10-percent increase in services specializing in armored cars.

While building armored cars is usually left to companies that will disassemble production vehicles and add all manner of reinforcements, automakers are getting in on the action, too. Audi now makes its own armored Q5 in Mexico for local sale for $87,000, which is a bit less than the final cost of upfitting a standard Q5 after the fact. BMW, Jeep and Mercedes-Benz are doing the same.

Armored cars are still quite expensive and, thus, are largely relegated to protecting the upper crust of Mexican society. Most of the cars go to the private sector, protecting high-profile executives and the like from kidnappings and subsequent ransom demands. Politicians scoop up the remaining share of armored cars. According to Reuters, some Mexican security companies have started offering armored cars as rentals and leases, which should make them somewhat more accessible to the public.

In the grand scheme of things, Mexico's armored-car business pales in comparison to similar industries in other parts of the world. While the AMBA estimates that Mexico will armor a hair over 3,000 cars in 2018, Brazil has it beat with more than 15,000 cars in 2017, and Reuters says that number is expected to rise by 25 percent this year.