Sao Paulo, Brazil, is known as the armored car capital of the world, and for good reason, the Wall Street Journal reports. Brazil's murder rate is 5 times the rate in the US, and the wealthy are historically at risk for kidnapping. Add to that a recent influx of wealth, and you get all kinds, from a teen with an armored VW Beetle in pink—“it’s a very pretty and expressive color”—to the businessman with a nondescript bulletproof cab: “something very strong and very unseen.”
The armor ardor is about more than just protection. “They want to wear a suit, have a nice watch and buy a nice car, so then it needs to be armored,” a dealer says. “There's an aspect of keeping up with the Joneses to it,” a skeptical businesswoman adds. A standard job costs about $25,000, and 6,000 cars are upgraded annually. But the trend can only go so far, because the army does not allow armor that would resist military weapons. That “would not be convenient for internal security,” a spokesman says.