SAN DIEGO — The kidnapping earlier this year of a Japanese executive has spurred interest in security services and products such as bullet-resistant, customized vehicle armor of polymer composites, polyester elastomer tire insert systems and reinforced window laminates. The Latin American market for executive-style armored vehicles and security exceeds $50 million per year and is increasing again with the improved condition of the peso, said Steve Adam, president of Ballistics Supplies Inc. in Fayetteville, N.C.
``Kidnapping is not aimed only at foreign nationals, but at anyone who is a company executive,'' Adam said. ``If a kidnapper can achieve the objective of getting money, the incidents will continue.''
Security services and armored vehicle manufacturer O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt Armoring Co. in Fairfield, Ohio, rebuilds executive vehicles completely.
``Inquiries have picked up dramatically, especially in Mexico,'' said Thomas Herlihy, North American sales manager.
The firm employs 441 worldwide and forecasts 1996 sales of more than $60 million for all product lines.
``In the Tijuana area, we recommend anti-kidnapping and common crime protection,'' Herlihy said. ``We offer packages of protection including ballistic protection, keyless entry locks and tire inserts to escape the kill zone'' beyond the immediate threat.
Converting a vehicle to protect from handgun fire costs $40,000-$50,000; protection from rifle fire is $60,000-$100,000.
Herlihy sees maquiladora security forces as ``slowly becoming prepared'' for today's climate. Because of its proximity to the border and close operational ties, ``Tijuana has been an extension of U.S. [business] mentality,'' he said.
Asian companies deal routinely with risky situations in their dangerous home region, but Tijuana ``security managers are not in tune with the rest of the company,'' he said.
Worldwide, 4,000-5,000 executive vehicles are armored yearly, Herlihy said. Executive Armor in San Antonio and International Armoring Group in Ogden, Utah, are other major players among a dozen U.S. firms rebuilding vehicles.
O'Gara-Hess uses Rodgard Corp.'s tire inserts.
Rodgard manufactures styles of the lightweight, high-strength run-flat insert system to fit various tire sizes for armored, emergency, luxury and police vehicles. A set costs $200-$800. The system extends the life of a tire in a deflated mode from 5-30 miles depending on tread, speed and road condition.
Using DuPont Co.'s Hytel polyester elastomer, Rodgard molds rings that fit inside the tire on the wheel.
``The tire tread comes down on the plastic rims,'' said Richard Hauck, president of the Buffalo, N.Y., converter.
The block copolymers consist of polybutylene terephthalate and long-chain polyether glycols.
Rodgard was acquired Nov. 1 by Hutchinson Industries of Trenton, N.J., a unit of Paris-based giant Hutchinson SA.
The New Jersey operation produces civilian run-flat inserts of fiberglass and a variety of DuPont polyesters, but ``a different concept'' from the Rodgard product, said Pascal Seradarian, Hutchinson Industries president.
He recounted how a Mexican
bank thought armor plate and cellular phones were sufficient protection for its money couriers.
``A few months later, a vehicle got its tire shot out, and the aggressor poured a gallon of gasoline under the truck,'' Seradarian said. ``The doors opened in 10 seconds. They discovered mobility is the key to get out'' of a high-risk site.
Hutchinson Industries generates annual sales of about $20 million, supplies run-flats for military applications and is developing countermine and blast-protection products.
Component maker Two-F Glass Armor Co. LLC manufactures bullet-resistant laminates of glass, the adhesives polyurethane and polyvinyl butyral and a sheet of polycarbonate for vehicle protection.
``We bond a sheet of polycarbonate with polyurethane as a spall liner,'' said David Forest.
Spall liners cover windows and protect occupants from shattering glass.
About 60 square feet of each material is used per car.
The limited liability company is a joint venture between Forest, his partner Bobby Foushee and Finind Group's Isoclima unit in Este, Italy. Two-F employs six in Oceanside, Calif., at corporate offices, a computer-aided-design center and a warehouse, and serves as the exclusive Western Hemisphere distributor of Isoclima automotive bullet-resistant glass products.
Another 45 workers use semiautomated cutting, edge-grinding and bending equipment to make laminates in Mexicali, Mexico, where Two-F subsidiary Isoclima America has a new, 35,000-square-foot facility.
``Mexico has a high-quality vehicle glass manufacturing infrastructure, and all of Latin America is an important market for our products,'' Forest said.
Operations in Este, Oceanside and Mexicali exchange CAD files via high-speed modem.
The $100 million worldwide annual market for bullet-resistant vehicle laminates is growing at a rate of 10 percent, Forest said, and accounts for 25-33 percent of the cost of each armored vehicle.
Security risks boost sales of other materials.
Use of Kevlar aramid fiber for ballistic protection ``is a growth market for us,'' said John Dottore, a Kevlar business segment leader with DuPont Co.'s Advanced Fiber Systems unit in Richmond, Va. End products include hard armor applications, such as helmets, plates and vehicle armor, and soft armor, such as bullet-resistant vests, for civilian and military uses.
GE Plastics' Structured Products, based in Pittsfield, Mass., reports increased use of its bullet-resistant Lexgard PC laminates for doors and windows in private homes, banks, schools and 24-hour convenience shops and gas stations.
Sales of AlliedSignal Inc.'s Spectra fiber for bullet-resistant vests and Spectra shield for hard armor applications are growing ``in any kind of conflict or private industrial sector'' situation, according to Keith Butler, applications engineer in Petersburg, Va.