What is the latest accessory for the budding princeling, oligarch or cartel boss to be conspicuously driving in London using an inconspicuous exterior? The latest status symbol of the wealthy traversing London’s prestigious West End roads are armored vehicles disguised as your average, every day luxury vehicle. Transforming a common Range Rover, Bentley or Maserati into a vehicle designed to withstand a terrorist attack is becoming popular as well as profitable.
Armored cars: a growing trend among the super rich
While protecting a precious cargo is nothing new – everyone from presidents to dictators has done it throughout history – the trend is gaining acceptance among those who might not actually need protection, an Economist article noted.
The rising tide of a popular trend among the rich and famous can be seen in worldwide market growth. While such armored cars with bullet proof glass and bomb-proof exteriors amounted to “a handful” of vehicles on the road a few years ago, Mark Burton of International Armoring estimates that in 2015 there will be 7,500 such vehicles sold.
Demand is growing not because the world is more dangerous, the report noted, but because the super-rich – mainly from Russia, Africa and the Middle East – can so easily afford to minimize threats “whether they be real or imaginary.”
New armored car showroom in London’s West End
Burton competes from his Centerville, Utah headquarters with Streit, a Canadian armored-car company that is teaming with Ares, an Italian firm that adds luxury features to luxury cars, to open a London showroom. The Streit / Ares collaboration, situating the armored luxury vehicle showroom in London’s prestigious West End, has the goal of popularizing the concept of luxury vehicles but doing so in an understated fashion. While it might be popular to whisper to party goers and friends the benefits of owing a protected vehicle, in public the goal is for the car to blend among the more common luxury vehicles in so as not to become a target.
The cost of outfitting a car that can endure through bomb blasts and bullets alike can run anywhere from $470,000 to $1.6 million additional. And such a car isn’t like your grandfather’s armored car. With the use of high-tech lighter weight materials means that what previously was a heavy, clunky and hard to maneuver vehicle is not a relative performance machine, not much different handling from how the non-armored version of the same vehicle operates.