Wheels24

Bullet-proof your Cruze, Corolla?

2012-04-17 10:12

NEW YORK, USA - Would you bulletproof a Kia? If you live in Brazil, the answer could very well be yes - to guard against robbers at stop signs in Sao Paulo or traffic jams in Brasilia.

Armour plating isn't just for aristocrats anymore as the world's seventh-largest economy grapples with high rates of kidnapping, murder and robbery.

Chemical maker DuPont, introduced its bulletproof Kevlar fiber and SentryGlas car kit Armura in 2008 to middle-class Brazilian families who owned Chevrolets, Hondas and even low-cost Kias.

CLASSIC CAR ARMOUR?

In 2012, the company wants to bulletproof taxis that will shuttle visitors between events for the 2014 World Cup soccer championship and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic games.

Carlos Benatto, business manager for DuPont, said: "We wanted to bring a solution to a family that wants protection but doesn't have money to afford classic car armour."

Armura, sold only in Brazil, protects against bullets up to .38 caliber. Sales rose 70% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

DuPont said annual sales of Armura amounted to millions of dollars, but it declined to be more specific.

The kit costs about $12000 (R95 501), weighs roughly 90kg and takes 15 days to install. A DuPont-approved technician replaces a car's windows with SentryGlas, and puts Kevlar panels behind the door panels. Due to its relatively light weight, the kit does not cut fuel efficiency, DuPont said.

DuPont said that more than 100 mechanics in Brazil offer car armouring services, cobbling together parts from different vendors that cost twice as much as Armura. Some of them might incorporate Kevlar.

Developed by DuPont in 1965, Kevlar is the industry standard for bulletproofing door panels, but it is also used in flak jackets, socks and tyres. DuPont has even developed a Kevlar tornado and hurricane shelter.

The Armura can be installed in 11 vehicles, including the Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Cruze. Armura protects against most handguns commonly used in Brazil, Benatto said.

DuPont said it is also talking to automakers about installing Armura in new vehicles.

Alexandre Sarafian, a sporting goods retailer in Sao Paulo, decided to bulletproof a Kia Sportage for his mother.

Sarafian said: "This is to get away from the day-to-day violence ... which should be diminishing, but it's not. Bulletproofing can get expensive, and you don't really recover that cost when you sell the car. So it's better not to pay so much."

In Brazil, high rates of petty and violent crimes have fueled the demand for security products and services. In Salvador, the country's third-largest city, the murder rate has more than doubled over in 2011, in part because of a police strike.

Armura's success in Brazil has exceeded DuPont's expectations and the company is planning to sell the kit to at least two other countries, but would not name them.

Reuters