September 27, 2008 / 12:50 AM / 11 years ago

Mexico violence drives demand for bulletproof cars

MEXICO CITY, Sept 26 (Reuters) - German carmaker Volkswagen is making armored cars for the Mexican market as more kidnapping gangs ambush drivers with automatic weapons and rival drug cartels stage gun battles in the streets.

Volkswagen (VOWG.DE) said on Friday it is building one or two made-to-order bulletproof cars a week at its Puebla plant — each costing $65,000 — and orders for more keep coming.

The Bora model offered is a variant of VW’s Jetta.

“We started to notice that a lot of clients take their cars to be bulletproofed after buying them. Then they come back to us because of quality problems,” company spokesman Thomas Karig told Reuters.

“So we became interested in collaborating with a company specialized in this service, to offer clients a car we can manufacture with all the guarantees,” he said in a phone interview.

Kidnappings have soared in Mexico in recent years with gangs using increasingly sophisticated tactics to trap their victims, setting up fake roadblocks or surrounding vehicles with commando-like operations.

Drug violence killed some 3,000 people in the country this year as heavily armed cartels fight each other and government security forces. In violent towns near the U.S.-Mexico border, civilians are often killed or injured in the cross-fire.

President Felipe Calderon has launched a frontal assault on Mexico’s powerful drug gangs since taking office at the end of 2006, deploying thousands of soldiers and federal police to violent hot spots.

Last month over 150,000 people protested in simultaneous marches around the country over what they said was Calderon’s failure to curb out-of-control crime. (Reporting by Armando Tovar; Writing by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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