Armor all: Brazil is fast becoming the world's garage for armored cars.
According to market estimates, more than 3,800 armored vehicles were built in Brazil last year. During the first half of 2005, the industry reported a 15% increase from the same period a year earlier. Those figures show up on the bottom line: Armored passenger cars produced estimated revenue that year of US$100 million. In 1995, Brazilian factories produced 388 armored passenger vehicles; by 2002, the country's armor shops had built 4,136 passenger cars.
The number of armored vehicles roaming the streets of Brazil has reached 22,000, the third-largest fleet of private armored vehicles in the world after Colombia and Mexico. A good part of the production of components for high-security cars, such as bulletproof glass, is produced in Brazil and shipped abroad. "Brazil has become a respected supplier of armored vehicles because it offers good prices and high-quality technology," says Franco Giaffone, president of the Abrablin, the armored-car industry association. For Giaffone, the industry got to where it is today due to the Brazilian automotive sector, which was forced to become more competitive amid rising domestic demand.
"A growing sensation of a lack of security these days has made the Brazilian customer more accepting of the idea of armoring his car, something unthinkable 10 years ago," Giaffone says. In the city of Silo Paulo alone, the number of stolen vehicles in 2005 was 40,107. The number of homicides hit 3,513, according to the public security office of Silo Paulo state.
Centigon O'Gara is one car company that rode on the trend of selling to international markets. The U.S. company's Brazilian subsidiary delivered 26 military vehicles to the Middle East and 15 throughout Latin America last year. The company doesn't release financial details on the Brazilian market, but globally it takes in $1.50 billion a year armoring automobiles, says Alexandre Bet, Centigon O'Gara's business director. Besides Brazil, the company runs plants in Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Germany, France and the United States.
In Brazil, Centigon O'Gara also supplies specialized glass for the U.S. market. "We have a contract with the United States Department of Defense. Our products had to pass FBI and CIA standards," Bet says.
Many armored-car companies in the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America soup up cars with special glass made by Protechtor, a Brazilian company. Nearly 11% of Protechtor's products are sold abroad, a figure that could double by the end of 2007, says Oldack Jaoude, the company's general manager for marketing. Currently, the company exports 600 parts a year. "Even though current exchange rates don't help exports, price conditions are not flexible and the competition is fierce. We've got a plan for a significant increase in exports," Jaoude says. Italy is Brazil's chief competitor when it comes to armored automobile products, he says.
Rental. While sales are apparently strong for the manufacturers, car-rental agencies are also seeing their business grow on the need for armored transportation. Maxiauto, a car dealership headquartered in Silo Paulo, reported a 60% increase in demand for armored passenger vehicles over the last four years. Customers include presidents and chief executive officers of multinational corporations from the United States, Japan and Europe as well as heads of state, mainly from Africa, says Maria Terenza Soubihe, Maxiauto's business manager. Daily rental rates for an armored passenger vehicle run from $140 to $475.
LUCIANO SOMENZARI * SAO PAULO
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|Date:||Jul 1, 2006|
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