Magazine article Newsweek

Full-Metal Traffic Jam: Spooked by Terror Alerts, Drivers Want Panic Rooms, to Go

Magazine article Newsweek

Full-Metal Traffic Jam: Spooked by Terror Alerts, Drivers Want Panic Rooms, to Go

Article excerpt

Byline: Keith Naughton

When all those limos pull up to the red carpet at the Oscars this month, some will be outfitted more elaborately than the stars. Beneath their shiny exteriors is the hottest new automotive accessory--bulletproof armor. Just ask David Seelinger, president of Secure Car Worldwide. He's struggling to keep up with calls from VIPs eager to pay $2,000 a day to ride in his steel-plated limos. CEOs are armoring themselves against terrorism, movie stars are getting death threats and rappers fear assassination. To keep up with demand, Seelinger has more than tripled his armored fleet to 10 cars. "This is absolutely a sign of the times," he says.

With homeland insecurity rising, the car business is going ballistic. Ford is introducing the $140,000 Lincoln Town Car BPS--for Ballistic Protection Series--which can stop an AK-47 and block a grenade. Later this year GM will roll out an armored Cadillac Deville capable of deflecting bullets from a .44 magnum. At last week's Geneva Motor Show, BMW introduced the 760Li High Security, which can be hermetically sealed in a gas attack and supply its occupants with germ-free oxygen. Car-armor customizers are now putting full-metal jackets on Cadillac Escalades and Hummer H2s--at prices ranging from $30,000 to $350,000 above sticker price. Armored-car makers, whose big customers traditionally have been in developing countries, say the United States is now one of the fastest-growing markets. At Scaletta Moloney in Chicago, one of the world's top armoring specialists, U.S. sales have shot up 40 percent since Orange alerts entered the lexicon. "People have awoken to the fact that it can happen here," says CEO Joe Scaletta.

But even armored cars have their limits, much to the disappointment of some customers. "We try to defuse the James Bond myth," says Scaletta marketing VP Dan Trainor. …

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