Grant Anderson, managing director of Amormax — the country's largest luxury vehicle armouring company — told Business Insider South Africa that hijackers with AK47s are increasingly switching from bullets with a lead core to those with a steel core. Steel core bullets are becoming more widely available because they are easier to manufacture, he added.
These bullets have a much higher penetration rate and can pierce through conventional armour.
The police reported almost 17,000 car hijacking incidents in the year to March 2017. This was the highest number recorded in the past decade, an increase of 14.5% from the previous year. On average, 46 cars are hijacked every day in South Africa.
“A number of bulletproof vehicles that used to protect occupants against AK47s are now no longer able to defeat this particular threat level,” says Anderson. Apart from AK47s, R4 and R5 high-power rifles, 9mm Parabellum is the most commonly used hand gun calibre in hijackings in Gauteng, where more than half of South Africa's hijackings take place.
Armouring a luxury car against hand gun attacks (‘level B4’ protection) can cost around R550,000, according to Amormax. This increases to R1.45 million to provide protection against AK47s and high-power rifles (‘level B6’). According to Anderson, the armour should only have a minimal impact on the performance of the car. “On a level B4 build, we only add an average of 180kg of armour.”
Want to buy a vehicle that is already bulletproof? A 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography (mileage: 24,000km) with level B4 protection will set you back almost R3.5 million, while a 2017 Volkswagen Golf 7 GTi DSG (3,000km) is on offer for R1.2 million, according to MMI Armoured Cars.
You can also rent a bulletproof vehicle from about R5,000 a day.
Anderson says a growing number of Amormax clients are reporting that hijackers open fire on them almost immediately.
“Generally this seems to have happened where the client has been followed from a bank or shopping centre and the assailants’ goal has been to steal the vehicle contents rather than the vehicle itself,” he says.
Because of the success of car tracking devices, hijackers are now taking drivers with them to prevent the driver from reporting the car as hijacked, says Anderson. This gives the hijackers time to trace the tracking unit and remove it.
“For the driver, it is a horrifying and traumatic experience,” he says.