Interview: The secret world of armored vehicles

Source: JPA Armoring GmbH
Armored car transportation. Source: JPA Armoring GmbH (all images used with permission)

I am sure we have all dreamed of having a private jet, an armored car or a teleportation device. It may seem more like a dream than reality to us students at the moment. However, those things are actually more within reach than you think! Except for the teleportation device (I am still waiting for you, NASA). Therefore, I will pull you into the world of armored cars, to make it become less of a fantasy and turn it more into a tangible, close-to-home reality. No, this is not an article about how to become rich very quickly; otherwise I wouldn’t be a student. You guessed it: it’s another interview!

By Vanda Friedrichs

This time it is with the managing director of JPA Armoring GmbH, Mr. Maximilian Ackermann. They sell armored cars which are produced by their own manufacturing company, Fahrzeugbau Stadthagen GmbH. Mr. Ackermann was kind enough to spare me some time to interview him about his company, which he founded in 2013 at age 22. I know, right. I felt really unaccomplished too, when he told me his age.

What exactly does your company provide?

We provide armored vehicles that are made for dangerous places, ensuring that the passengers in the car are safe. To put it into perspective, we sell armored vehicles with a window thickness between 40 mm and 70 mm, and our armored ambulance can withstand a 15 kg blast from a distance of two meters from the side of the car, two HG 85 hand grenades on the roof and two DM-31 landmines underneath the vehicle.

Armoured Land Cruiser HZJ 78 Ambulance. Source: JPA Armoring GmbH
Armored Land Cruiser HZJ 78 Ambulance. Source: JPA Armoring GmbH

What other type of vehicles do you offer?

We remodel SUVs from Toyota, such as the Land Cruiser or the Lexus SUV, and the Nissan Patrol. We also remodel limousine vehicles from Lexus for our VIP customers. It is better to be an expert to a limited amount of vehicles than it is to have a limited knowledge for a lot of vehicles. If you do everything, you do nothing right; if you do just a few things, you do these things right. Since the vehicles are for safety, people don’t really try to look prestigious or stand out. It should look as regular as possible.

Who are your typical customers?

Most of our customers are governments, about 95% of the time. These include NATO countries and governments that need armored cars for their embassy employees or for military reasons. The other 5% are wealthy private individuals who may need one due to the country they live in or other private reasons. We have buyers from Nigeria, Australia, the UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Austria and many other countries.

How long does it take to armor one vehicle and how much does it cost on average?

Well, it depends on the model and whether the customer needs to customize their orders. But if we take the armored ambulance as an example, it can take between 10-14 weeks to armor it and it can cost between €220,000 and €350,000. The windows can already cost €10,000. Higher prices are always possible, of course. If the customer wishes to have the windows made out of sapphire for extreme strength and solidness, the windows would cost €110,000. However, even wealthy customers would not buy such a car, the same way they would not buy a bottle of cola for €100. It’s simply not necessary.

Who tests your vehicles for safety and quality?

The Beschussamt (test center for firearms) is the one who tests our cars by shooting, bombing and blasting them with various types of weapons and firearms. We are there when they blast our cars. It’s pretty cool to watch the action and feel the shockwave from a distance.

How many people do you have in your team and where are they located?

My team is located worldwide. I have around 50 people in Germany and 10-15 people globally. They are in Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, Australia and China. We are based in Stadthagen near Hannover but we also have an office here in Berlin, so that we can visit our customers and people we work with here more easily.

Car Armoring Factory in Stadthagen. Source: JPA Armoring GmbH
Car armoring factory in Stadthagen. Source: JPA Armoring GmbH
Armored cars 2
Car armoring factory in Stadthagen. Source: JPA Armoring GmbH

What is your favorite part about working at JPA Armoring GmbH?

I always have good stories to tell after I come back from one of my travels, especially from Nigeria and the UAE. I get to travel to places people don’t usually go, to see my clients, business partners and also potential clients.

What is your company’s biggest accomplishment so far?

Our largest accomplishment so far is being the world leader in quality of armoring and service, since our vehicles run about ten times longer than a regular armored car. We have cars sitting in Kabul that have been running for 10 years now. The usual armored cars last about half a year to a year. If you ever go to Kabul, you will understand why. The roads are terrible and the soldiers don’t know how to drive in these dangerous places, so their driving can destroy the cars.

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