DUBAI // Local companies that strip down and transform ordinary vehicles into battle-ready beasts say demand for their services is on the rise.
Companies in this region that retrofit cars with armoured security features include Saxon Armour and Ares Security Vehicles in Dubai and Safe Cage in Ras Al Khaimah.
"These are not vehicles used in an actual war, but used by VIPs or for personal security to carry people from one place to another," said Mohammed Ajmal, the sales manager of Saxon Armour, which has been based in Dubai for the past three years.
The company has also produced armoured cars for the US, UK military, Nato forces, United Nations and the Afghanistan government.
"It's for people who don't feel secure in a place where shooting could suddenly start. We see 2013 as a very good year for business. The rules in Dubai have also changed, with the government trying to help with business approvals."
Toyota models are most frequently requested, the companies said, with Land Cruisers and Hiluxes the leading choices for a make-over.
Chevrolets and Ford Expeditions are the next choice, with clients most often asking for refitting of ballistic steel and glass or curved bullet catchers in the door seams.
"Normally the Land Cruiser is the most popular and we have a regular demand for it because it's cheaper and powerful. But we also get a lot of Mercedes, BMWs, Nissan Patrols - there is no one single type that we deal with."
A recent report by Visiongain, an independent consultancy, said the global armoured vehicle upgrade-and-retrofit market could expect to bring in US$4.97billion (Dh18.28bn) in 2013.
Despite defence budget cuts, the market "is expected to prove surprisingly resilient", said the report, which was released last month.
Bulletproof windows and glass, armoured plates, replacement of shock absorbers and coils, reinforced door hinges and bullet-resistant tyres are among the special features requested by customers.
It takes between one and two weeks to refit a car, but the key to the business is that the armoured vehicles look no different from any other car on the road. Their VIP occupants do not want to attract unwanted attention.
"Run-flat tyres are popular because these are able to run 50km even if the tyre is shot," Mr Ajmal said.
"However much we replace, the body of the vehicle remains the same because the car should not look different. The whole idea is that whatever features we add, nobody should feel that the car is any different. That is the level of protection clients require."