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Burly BMWs shadow prime ministerial stoush

Political clout: BMW says its armoured X5 can stand up to an attack from someone using a handgun.

Federal police favour armoured BMW over local models to escort prime minister

BMW logo1 Jul 2013

AUSTRALIA’S federal police force says it is using expensive BMW-badged armoured vehicles to shadow the prime minister’s official car because nothing made here is tough enough.

Images published on news sites over the past week following the course of the federal leadership spill as it played out showed an AFP-staffed BMW X5 chasing the prime ministerial car through the streets of Canberra.

However, while this flies in the face of calls from both sides of government to source locally made cars for official duties, the AFP said it had no choice but to buy the BMWs.

It said it had a fleet of 29 vehicles used for dignitary protection – which includes the Ford Territory – but among that count were five V8-engined 2011 BMW X5 xDrive50i armoured SUVs, worth about $300,000 each.

“The vehicles were selected after an extensive vehicle selection and tender process,” an AFP spokesperson told GoAuto.

“During the process there was no Australian-manufactured vehicle identified that met the criteria for armoured security vehicles.

“The BMW armoured security vehicle was chosen as it was considered the most functional factory-built security vehicle available, which met the AFP’s needs,” she said.

“The AFP is confident they are the best vehicle for the AFP’s responsibilities in protecting both Australian and foreign dignitaries.

“These vehicles were procured as part of a long-term strategic plan with each vehicle costing in the vicinity of $300,000.

“Converting an Australian-manufactured vehicle to armoured requires significant customisation at considerably greater cost than purchasing purpose-built vehicles.”

Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald said the car-maker generally did not discuss which vehicles it sold to government and businesses.

“I can confirm that we did do some Territory Turbos for some protective services – no one seems to know the number – but that was a long time ago,” he said.

Ford has not sold a turbocharged version of the Territory soft-roader since it axed the Geelong-made 4.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-petrol engine in 2010 in response to tougher emissions laws.

However, the car-maker continues to make a turbocharged version of the Falcon large car, which does meet the tougher Euro 4 emissions standard.

Instead of the turbo-petrol version, Ford now makes a V6-engined turbo-diesel version of the Territory.

BMW Australia general manager of corporate communications, Lenore Fletcher, said the German luxury brand had only sold about 10 armoured vehicles in Australia.

“We don’t sell that many (armoured cars in Australia) at all,” she said. “It’s something that I’d really, really like to talk about extensively, but the problem is that the people who buy them don’t want us to do that.”

The BMW X5 Security, as the model is designated, includes 22mm-thick glass that resists “blunt instrument” attacks, and handguns of “up to a calibre of .44 Magnum including .357 Magnum or 9mm Luger”, the car-maker says.

Other features include run-flat tyres that stay rigid even if they are punctured, automatically locking doors and windows, and an intercom system that includes microphones sensitive enough to snoop on conversations outside the car.

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