DETROIT - Cadillac is making it easier for rock stars, professional athletes and others to order armored DeVilles.
Beginning in late fall, buyers can order the vehicles from about 50 dealers.
The program features two armored 2004 Cadillac DeVille models. The cars will carry a full General Motors warranty.
"Consumers are concerned about their safety," says Susan Docherty, marketing manager for the DeVille and Escalade. "We are talking about kidnappings, drive-by shootings, acts of violence that one can protect themselves against by having a vehicle that provides enhanced security."
Likely buyers are celebrities and people who deal with cash or valuables, such as jewelers, Docherty says.
Cadillac aims for annual sales of about 300 units. Docherty says it is difficult to determine the size of the armored-vehicle market in the United States.
"There are independent companies that are doing this, but nobody reports armored-vehicle sales," she says.
Now, Cadillac dealers selling armored vehicles select the coach builder for the conversion. Under the new program, Scaletta Moloney Armoring of Bedford Park, Ill., will be automaker's authorized converter.
Cadillac will offer two armored DeVille models: the standard-sized sedan and a version stretched eight inches. A wider C-pillar, combined with a rear seat moved back to put passengers next to the C-pillar, provides additional protection.
Armor on the DeVille is capable of withstanding an attack from a .44-caliber Magnum handgun.
Joseph Scaletta, president of Scaletta Moloney Armoring, says, "The vehicle is designed to stop random acts of violence - handgun protection, not an assassination threat."
Tony Truelove, Cadillac marketing analyst, says the car will not be sold "in countries that have a high population of high-powered firearms, for example, an AK-47 in the Middle East. This vehicle would not give you that kind of protection."
Each armored DeVille will have the commercial vehicle chassis that was developed for the limousine and hearse-conversion business. The DeVille will be equipped with a 275-hp version of the 4.6-liter Northstar V-8, a heavy-duty engine cradle and cooling system, along with heavy-duty springs and shock absorbers.
The car will be shipped from GM's Hamtramck, Mich., assembly plant to Scaletta Moloney Armoring in Illinois for armoring. Scaletta Moloney has a research and development office in Farmington Hills, Mich., that does design and validation work.
Armor will be added to the roof, undercarriage, A-, B- and C-pillars and the doors. All glass will be replaced with bullet-resistant glass. A self-sealing gasoline tank will be added. Run-flat tires will be mounted on eight-lug, two-piece truck-type wheels.
Pricing has not been determined, but a sticker of about $135,000 is likely for the stretched DeVille. Production is expected to begin late this year. It will take about three months to fill orders.
The conversion increases the sedan's weight by 1,200 pounds, and the stretched model's by about 1,500 pounds, said Scaletta.
Dealers participating in the program will be expected to pay about $12,500 for tools and training.
Meanwhile, says spokesman Mike Vaughn, about 10 Lincoln dealerships will start selling a factory-authorized armored Town Car in late summer for about $145,000.