That unassuming Kia may actually be ready for combat.
Shaken by crime spikes and a creeping sense of lawlessness, more Americans are having their vehicles bulletproofed than ever, insiders told The Post.
Until recently, the armored car industry catered almost exclusively to the wealthy elite in volatile third-world nations.
But with scenes of American street violence crowding Twitter feeds and news broadcasts, manufacturers have been flooded with orders from concerned everyday citizens.
“It’s been pretty shocking,” said Mark Burton of Utah-based Armormax, one of the world’s largest auto bulletproofing companies. “I would say it really started about 18 months ago. It used to be politicians and CEOs. Almost all international. Now we ‘re bulletproofing Honda Accords.”
Founded in 1993, Armormax’s business once centered on clients from Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and across the Middle East. The firm has fortified vehicles for prime ministers, presidents, and captains of industry.
But Burton said he now gets so many domestic inquiries that he recognizes recurring area codes.
For every order from Lagos, there’s another one from Los Angeles.
A Las Vegas client named Sean, who works in the gaming industry, had his Mercedes G-Wagon fully bulletproofed last year.
“I think post-COVID things changed,” he told The Post. “Big city crime, road rage, shootings, carjackings. I drive my car down to The Strip every day, there’s been a lot of incidents here. I feel safer. It was well worth it and I would do it again.”
The Nevadan said he spared no expense with his $85,000 package — and even ordered a PA system which allows him to communicate with people outside his vehicle without rolling down a window, in case of an emergency.
Burton said vehicular mayhem is more visible than ever because of social media.
Just this week, an upstate New York woman was shot dead in her car after making a wrong turn down a private driveway.
Earlier this month, a 5-year-old Bay Area girl traveling down a freeway with her parents was tragically killed after a random bullet pierced their car.
“When they see things like this happening, people are deciding that safety is worth the expense,” Burton said. “They want a mobile fortress.”
To keep pace with rocketing domestic demand, the company opened a new plant in Atlanta in 2021 and has plans to build three more.
The Ogden manufacturer initially relied on the Mexican market, where rampant kidnappings during the 90s spurred the nation’s rich and notable to protect themselves in transit.
But their services quickly became coveted in other turbulent regions across the globe.
“These were places with no middle class,” Burton said. “You had the very wealthy and the very poor. So you had certain people who were vulnerable to attacks.”
That socio-economic scenario, Burton said, appears to have sprouted in America.
Residents in both crime-plagued and affluent areas perceive themselves as targets.
Chicago — scene of rampant mob disorder this past weekend — has become a reliable source of business. Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis, and Los Angeles have also become centers of bulletproofing demand.
“The clientele is changing,” Burton said. “Doctors, lawyers — now you’re seeing real estate developers and even some real estate agents.”
Brokers and builders often find themselves conducting business in gentrifying areas and feel vulnerable, Burton said.
Other clients contact Armormax immediately after being victimized in their vehicles or getting encircled in a hostile crowd.
“It costs $38,500 for a basic windows and doors package for handgun protection,” Burton said. “We get people who are so scared after something happens that they’ll just get their windows done — or even just the windshield — because they can’t cover the whole car being armored.”
Protection against high-powered rifles — including AR-15s and M-16s — hikes the price by roughly $10,000 depending on the size of the vehicle.
Technological advances now allow for vehicles to look unchanged after being retrofitted, which has further spurred demand, Burton noted.
A client from Los Angeles told The Post that she will be picking up her newly refurbished SUV from the Utah plant in June.
She said she views the expense as a practical safety measure given the country’s uncertain direction.
“I have kids,” she said. “No one gets punished for anything anymore so these incidents are only going to increase. That seems pretty obvious. So I think it’s just a sensible thing to do.”
A growing number of Americans, Burton said, now expect widespread chaos at some point — and are bulletproofing large, fully-outfitted vans to serve as impregnable “escape vehicles” to safer ground.
“If things ever really go south, they want to be ready,” he said.
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