NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Lincoln Mercury plans to enter the rapidly growing armored vehicle market by introducing its first bullet-proof Lincoln Town Car BPS in mid-2003.
The automaker announced last week that the new Town Car will be designed to provide protection from powerful handgun and high-power rifle rounds.
Lincoln said the BPS model will be equipped with lightweight bullet-resistant steel and advanced ceramic technology. The new armored vehicle will weigh about 7,500 pounds, 1,800 pounds more than a regular Town Car.
Ford's Lincoln division plans to unveil a bullet-proof Town Car in mid-2003. (Photo source: Ford)
The attackers tend to aim at places where they can see, the company says. For this reason, Lincoln Town Car BPS is outfitted with thick tranparent ballistic material for windows.
The car will also have plenty of engine power, the company says.
"When under attack, passengers must escape the field of fire as quickly as possible," said Lauren Schafer, director of Lincoln Special Engineering Operations. "This is where Lincoln Town Car BPS excels with V-8 power."
"After more than two years of research, we believe that the demand is increasing, and it's a profitable business to be in," said Mike Vaughn, spokesman for Lincoln, a unit of Ford Motor Co. (F: Research, Estimates)
But Mark Burton, CEO of International Armoring Corp., which makes retrofitted armored versions of passenger cars, said Lincoln may want to steer this one away from the U.S. market since the demand has been seen mostly in nations like Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and the Philippines.
"In Mexico, for example, kidnapping is very prominent, so they have these cars to protect individuals while they travel," he said. International Armoring is also a partner and supplier for Lincoln's armored Town Car.
Burton said the industry currently has a growth rate of about 20 percent per year globally, but the U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the market.
Lincoln, however, said it still plans to sell 70 percent of the vehicles to customers in North America, where most cars are "left-hand" drive as the Town Car BPS will be.
While customers might enjoy the high-quality protection of the Lincoln Town Car BPS, it comes at a steep price. The car company said it plans to price the armored car at around $140,000, three times more than the unarmored version.
Lincoln said the BPS will look no different from the base model so that it will not generate unnecessary attention. The company hopes to attract a new set of clientele, though, who would normally not purchase a Lincoln.
European automakers BMW and Mercedes have produced armored vehicles, but it's the first time for a U.S. automaker.