Demand for armored limousines and SUVs is rising to unprecedented levels, especially in the Middle Eastern countries that have experienced the popular rebellions known as the Arab Spring.
"It's a murky market and it's hard to get any exact figures," Jon Hawkes, senior analyst for military vehicles at IHS Jane's, told Reuters news agency. "But companies are talking about a 30-40 percent increase in sales in the last four or five years."
Prices vary, but an armored SUV can sell for $150,000 or more, more than three times the cost of a nonarmored vehicle. Most of the vehicles available are modified by specialist firms, which fit armored doors and windows and run-flat tires.
But some major auto firms, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar-Land Rover, produce armored versions of some of their popular vehicles.
Reuters reports that the specialist modification practice is long established, with firms such as Britain's Jankel having been in the business since the 1980s.
The agency says that with major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and many smaller ones around the world, "It has been a lucrative decade" for such firms are Jankel, Canada's INKAS, Germany's Transeco and Dubai-based Ares Security Vehicles.
But the U.S. continues to set the gold standard: The presidential limousine dubbed "the beast" is believed to have its own built-in weaponry and an independent air supply in case of chemical or biological attack, Reuters reports
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