My short bio: Given what appears to be arbitrary shootings in the US I figured it would be helpful for the reddit community to ask questions based on my perspective of growing up in both the USA and Mexico and being in a business that has specifically dedicated itsself to that of saving lives in a country where gun violence still is considered a major problem.

My Proof:

A older NPR interview I did

Our Website

more proof

Edit: Ok I am off to go grab some food I'll check back and answer some more questions late tonight.

Comments: 345 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

john_eh127 karma

Do you do work for anyone who asks? Have you helped cartel members stay safer?

sumeyedea145 karma

The situation is a bit more complex than that. The Mexican government has regulations in place to try and prevent drug cartels from purchasing.

We try our hardest to do vet each of our customers to prevent this sort of transaction from occurring. But there is no guarantee we get it right due to the fact that there are what are called "presta nombres" which means people who are hired by cartels with a good background etc to use their name as the one buying the car.

cyu1265 karma

What options are there for the common person to bullet proof their car? I imagine this service is pricey but it seems to me the poor might need it too.

sumeyedea84 karma

For people that lack the financial means we generally offer older generation cars that we took in as payment. Bullet proofed cars depreciate in value very quickly due to the fact that unless the car was done with purely ballistic steel, there is a caducity and shorter half life to other materials such as kevlar. As well as the added wear and tear of the extra weight constantly being put on every mechanism of the car.

Other than that, there are different levels, with lower price points that only resist certain type of hand guns.

cyu1225 karma

Great to hear, I wouldn't imagine you giving away top of the line stuff. This is a good compromise. Also I wasn't aware kevlar had a half life. Can you expand on that a little bit? I thought it was just a super tough fabric.

sumeyedea25 karma

In general a car bullet proofed with kevlar is good for 5 years and ballistic steel is good for 10.

ThePsych1823 karma

How long would the cars you offer remain functional for?

sumeyedea32 karma

This really depends on how it was armoured. For example if we a car with ballistic steel vs kevlar. Kevlar's half life is around 5 years, at which point I wouldn't fully trust my life behind it. Vs on the other hand ballistic steel can last ten years.

Chubby-Fish36 karma

What made your family get into this business?

sumeyedea112 karma

Bad Luck.

My dad was driving in Mexico one day, and got assaulted. They shot him and stole his car.

At the time this industry did not exist and crime was starting to get pretty bad in Mexico so he decided to do something about it.

Skninethousand29 karma

1.Which till now has been your favourite car to retrofit?
2.Which car would you like to retrofit in future?
Thanks for saving lives! Not many people can claim to have done that.

sumeyedea87 karma

1)The pope mobile.

When he went to Mexico had some issues when they flew it in years ago. We where selected to fix it. This is probably one of my dad's proudest moments.

2)Not really sure, as the cars get more complex over the years even a simple car becomes a complex task.

ConsuelaSaysNoNo28 karma

What was the hardest car to retrofit, and the easiest?

sumeyedea48 karma

Sports cars in general are very difficult to bullet proof. The more glass the car has (think a Mitsubishi Cclipse for example) the harder it is to get the ballistic gaps down as far as possible

Thrimidge23 karma

What material do you use for the body and glass? Also, this may be a dumb question, but what about the tires?

sumeyedea37 karma

This depends on the need and the situation the client is most likely to be in.

We use ballistic steel, bullet proof glass, kevlar, and other material alternatives.

The tires depending on the level and the location in which the client lives are sometimes bullet proofed via Hutchinson run flats, or other types. If the person is in the city it is normally not necessary to do the tires as even with the added weight for a car bullet proofed for the city in general they can drive a distance that is safe enough to escape danger.

On the other hand if the person is more likely to be in the suburbs it is more likely the tires would be done as they have to travel a farther distance

Craigybcheck2319 karma

Do you test them by firing live rounds at them?

sumeyedea47 karma

Yes there is thorough testing done by us as well as governments and clients. We have had clients buy multiple vehicles and then randomly select one and shoot it up to test our work

faitpunto16 karma

Are the floors of the vehicles up armoured at all? Noticed one of the windows was down in a picture, do the windows retain normal function are are they sealed in place? Cheers for doing an interesting ama!

sumeyedea25 karma

We have designed and built our own custom systems over the years to try and make the car as inconspicuous as possible so the assailant does not know the car is bullet proofed.

As well as make sure the car is as functional as if it where not bullet proofed. Try to get a marriage of convenience and safety.

The floor is actually done depending on the level of bullet proofing. Normally it is done with material instead of ballistic steel as kevlar is better for explosives and that is what is more likely to affect the bottom of the car.

punchandpie62515 karma

Hey...remember that time we snowboarded at breckenridge and found that hidden chairlift called Narnia? That was fun ey?

sumeyedea19 karma

We should go find it again. I still think we are young enough to make it into the alternate reality.

OfficialModerator14 karma

Hi, who is your average customer? Actually if I can be more of a nerd, what are your markets e.g government, private, corporate and (perhaps criminals?) and what percentage of your business is to each of these markets? Thanks

sumeyedea25 karma

We get a large variety of customers. From everything as upper middle class and higher to goverments, embassys, and corporations.

The percent truly varies on a year by year basis depending on what is more pressing at the time and given that some contracts take a while to work out.

In general if some one has money and lives in Mexico there is a large probability they have a bullet proofed car, or one of their friends does.

ymyryld13 karma

It must be an incledible feeling knowing that you have helped to save lives, how would your life be different if you and your family had never started bullet proofing cars?

sumeyedea34 karma

This is somewhat of a difficult question to answer as I have no real idea how my life would of ended up.

The gratitude in a face you see when you hug or shake someone’s hand who just experienced a atrocity and lived to tell about it because of work you did is hard to express.

The feeling is not so much joy but dismay at the fact that they actually needed your product.

GetHisWallet12 karma

So let's say I got the basic package for a standard sedan. What am I going to notice differently about my vehicle's overall performance? How much does that change in between upgrade tiers?

Sorry if this is on your website but I'm under heavy firewalls here on this computer.

sumeyedea17 karma

Handling is the biggest factor. And breaking distance. Since there is more weight to the car, parts tend to wear down quicker

j50n12 karma

what's the cheapest car to bullet proof?

sumeyedea27 karma

In general it is cheaper to bullet proof cars that don't require much customization and we have pre made templates for, such as suburbans

DdCno19 karma

Thanks for your AMA. I have a few technical questions, if you don't mind:

So it appears that your company is fitting armor to pretty much any car instead of focusing on a few vehicles. I'm quite puzzled by this. Looking at those very low prices for your entry level products, how can you reasonably ensure, without ballistic testing, that what you're doing is effective? How can you be sure that weak points such as door seals are reasonably protected without firing at least a couple of rounds of different ammunition from varying distances and out of various guns at them?

Then there is the issue that you can't just slap heavy armor onto a vehicle without altering suspension, brakes, steering, ABS, ESP and many other components. Needless to say, copious amounts of testing and prototyping are required. Are you actually doing this or are you simply explaining to your customers to drive more carefully? I've tried finding any information regarding this on your website, but there is only talk about the assembly and design of the armor, which is just not enough.

It's quite telling that on your website, there is no talk of any existing norms or government-regulated and government-tested protection classes. It's also not enough to just have certificates for your material - there has to be independent testing of your designs! There is no real information on your website, information I'm interested in if I had the need for one of your products. Looking at your plant on Google Maps inspires little confidence, as it has just the size of a normal repair shop. And my god, that address of your headquarters does not inspire confidence.

I'm sorry to say this and I'm even more sorry for sounding so harsh, but to me, your company does not look very trustworthy or competent. It appears to be just a small garage with a few mechanics screwing kevlar to cars and calling them armored afterwards. There isn't even a single photo of one of your armored cars, not even testimonies.

sumeyedea28 karma

We model the vehicles on computer models to make sure the ballistic gaps are reduced to the minimal amount possible. We have also tested many vehicles and most of the vehicles we get are the same type of vehicles (think suburban).

In regards to your second point, depending on what the customer is after and the level of the vehicle we tend to stear clients away from wanting to bullet proof say a 4 cylinder ford focus. Not to say it has not been done.

Modifications to the car are done, such as supercharging, upgrading suspension, chipping the car etc depending on the level. The weight added to just prevent simple handguns as compared to a AK47 are significant.

Thank you for pointing out the issues on the website, we will update accordingly. We just went through a site redesign, if you check the npr article I linked too you can see this image, we will put more up on the website as well to show more of the process.

I'm sorry you are not in confidence due to our online presence. I will work on this and greatly appreciate the criticism.

I am also not sure as what to say about the fact that our offices are located one of the busiest and well known avenues in Mexico City.

DdCno11 karma

Thanks for your answer!

Have you thought about hiring a third party to do the ballistic testing for you? That way you could perhaps gather some trustworthy certificates, depending on who you're hiring.

Interestingly, the car in the photo can also be ordered as an armored version directly from Mercedes, with several different kinds of armor. I'm assuming that's a more expensive option, but then again, a Mercedes S isn't a cheap vehicle to begin with. It would certainly be interesting to compare one of those official conversions to your work.

I have to apologize for my harsh words on your location. I'm not familiar with Mexico City and to me the StreetView images looked worse than the poorest streets I've ever seen, but that's most likely just due my ignorance and limited experience as a relatively sheltered European who hasn't seen much of the world.

sumeyedea16 karma

Third party testing has been done as required by Mexican, US, and other governments when they purchase some of the vehicles.

Yes Mercedes does offer factory armoured cars. But the cost in relation to having us do it is substantial. With what I would consider gains to be marginal.

And I am grateful for your words, pointed out some things we need to work on.

btl6149 karma

Have you had any customers who were saved by your work?

sumeyedea28 karma

Yes, it is always interesting when a customer brings back a car that has been completely shot up and they want to hug you because you saved their family.

cshans079 karma

I know the point of the ama is in relation to yesterday's event in Oregon, but your company itself just sounds so interesting.

I am wondering what the business side of your company is like. 1. How big is your garage? 2. How many employees do you have? 3. How many cars can you do per year? 4. How long does it take to complete the average job? 5. How profitable is the business?

Thanks for taking the time to do the AMA!

sumeyedea12 karma

1) We have a main garage and we have a temporary garage in the outskirts of Mexico city that we use when necessary. Given our processes we are able to move significant amount of vehicles through our process.

2) The number varies depending on size of contracts, but in general we have about 50 employees full time.

3) The amount of cars we do per year greatly varies, given we have the resources necessary to do any amount we have ever been asked to do. It is more of a demand

4) In general if there are no issues with the supply chain four weeks to eight weeks. We have done jobs faster, but when it comes to safety we like to generally avoid these situations and would rather rent the client a car in the mean time while we go through our process.

5)The margins are not that great. As we offer guarantees of our work and maintenance contracts so during the life of the vehicle. Also during the past 20 years even when demand was increasing there was new competitors to market.

BigPapaJesus9 karma

Do you ever worry about people who request your services using the Cars for illegal activities?

sumeyedea14 karma

Yes, I answered a previous question regarding this and what we do to try and avoid this situation and the pitfalls.

UmbraeAccipiter9 karma

What is the loss in fuel efficiency for bullet proofing a car?

sumeyedea10 karma

Depends on the level. For a lower level such as just against most handguns and some machine guns the fuel economy is affected as if you had 4 people in the car at all times.

It starts dropping drastically the higher the level you go.

YabbilyDoobily6 karma

What are some of your favourite stories related to your business?

sumeyedea22 karma

We sometimes install additional defence mechanisms into the car, such as a system that sprays pepper spray one meter radius around the car.

There was one time we where installing one of these systems into the car and when we where connecting the actual can of pepper spray someone had forgotten to close the valve.

Needless to say there was a group of us that got pepper sprayed.

craigge6 karma

Are you worried that people driving these cars might become kidnap targets just for driving them?

Meaning that if they can provision a bulletproof car then they have something of value to take. In indicator of wealth?

sumeyedea12 karma

Even with a trained eye it is very difficult to know if a car is bullet proofed if armoured correctly.

FWilly5 karma

So, what are your thoughts then?

America has more open gun laws than Mexico. What is your opinion on the effectiveness of gun laws in general? How do you feel that the two countries compare in legislation, enforcement, legal gun use and crime?

Edit: What do you think the answer to gun crime might be?

sumeyedea9 karma

Mexico suffers from corruption to a level far greater than the US does.

Ontop of that Mexico in general has a larger portion of the population that is not as educated as the USA. And significantly larger amount of poverty.

When you put these factors together you end up with pretty diar situation. I think vox article has some good points in showing that more guns leads to more gun deaths. And stricter gun laws in more developed countries leads to lower amount of gun deaths.

ThePsych185 karma

How long did it take for the business to really get off the ground? I imagine, in a country where gun crime is so common, it wouldn't have taken long before this idea took off?

sumeyedea8 karma

We established in 1994. Thanks to the social circles my dad was in and the demand given that crime was starting to get pretty bad within the first year they where able to turn a profit.

ronak_c5 karma

What type of materials do you normally use ?

sumeyedea6 karma

Depends on the requirements and the profile. Ballistic steel, kevlar, bullet proof glass, kevlar alternatives, etc.

kingme883 karma

Sorry if you've already answered this question, but how do your prices compare to similar services offered here in The United States? Do you ever get customers from other countries?

sumeyedea7 karma

Given that the cost of labour is cheaper in Mexico we are very competitively priced. We have a ton of customers from all over the world, including USA, Guatemala, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Iraq, etc.

usaftoast20133 karma

So would you go out on a limb and say that even with strict gun laws, shootings still occur at a rate where people need their cars bulletproofed?

sumeyedea4 karma

I think there is a bigger factor at play and that is lack of education and poverty. I think the strict gun laws do make it harder for people to attain guns which seems to lead to less gun deaths source I would say defiantly helps in reducing the number of gun deaths. But corruption that make all laws optional is a great problem in Mexico.

Iron_Skin3 karma

What is the type of car that you see the most? What types of mechical work usually needs to be done to support the armor?

sumeyedea9 karma

Suburban is by far the leader in terms of the car we bullet proof the most.

Depending on the level of the vehicle, ie against just pistols, or against ak47 and explosives. Can be anything from minor upgrades to overhauls such as supercharging the car etc.

dogten2 karma

Given that the majority of the drug cartels are very well armed and often have extensive paramilitary training, what real protection can you get from anything beyond a common criminal looking to rob or hijack?

sumeyedea9 karma

In most cases the criminal does not know your car is bullet proofed so it thwarts their attack at the time you end up being a victim.

There are numerous occasions I can remember that there was a planned kidnapping of one of our clients and by the time they tried to box the client in as kidnap them they where able to not only escape but ram their way out.

orgyofdolphins2 karma

do you think that loose gun laws in the US contribute to the flow of arms into Mexico, and as a consequence, to shootings, and your business?

sumeyedea10 karma

I don't have enough information on that nor have I done a substantial amount of research, but I do know that the main thing that the Mexican government checks for on vehicles entering Mexico from the US is arms.

courtiebabe4200 karma

Hello sumeyedea! Your post has been removed because you have not provided adequate proof within a reasonable amount of time. Please see the /r/IAmA sidebar for posting guidelines. Thank you!

sumeyedea5 karma

One sec let me get more proof

courtiebabe4203 karma

A post on your website would be perfect, if you can do that!

sumeyedea3 karma

Ok one sec let me get ftp details.

sumeyedea3 karma

The ftp details are going to take me about a hour to get. Can I upload something on facebook along with the npr link as proof in the meantime?

pixiegod-2 karma

Since gun owners will all rally around your statement of being in a gun controlled country while not registering the fact that Mexico currently is a war torn country like Colombia was 2-3 decades ago with their cartel issues,my question is simply...

Do you think that business would be booming if there wasn't a war against cartels happening?

sumeyedea12 karma

Business started growing when crime started getting out of control. The insult to injury was when the situation with the cartels got worse. But before that it was already bad.

We had started in 1994