Over the last three years, the number of armored cars in Brazil has doubled as an explosion of wealth has sent the newly rich in search of ways to live safely in a class-driven society where the murder rate is nearly five times that of the U.S.
Brazil’s armoring industry, including some 120 companies that convert vehicles, got its first big break in 1999, when bandits tried to kidnap the children of Jorge Paulo Lemann, the most famous banker in Brazil. A magazine story headlined “The Hero Car” told the gripping tale of how the bandits’ bullets bounced off the car’s windows.
Although the market is still small — less than one percent of all cars sold in Brazil get armored — sales are jumping again, but this time on a quickening of Brazil’s economy that’s expanded the ranks of status seekers. “They want to wear a suit, have a nice watch and buy a nice car, so then it needs to be armored,” says David Silva Ferreira, a salesman employed at a Mercedes showroom.