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Interview with Holger Stockey, Managing Director of SMS Special Mobility Services, a subsidiary of the WELP Group

ES & T: The Toyota Land Cruiser 200 was a loyal companion of those active in the crisis areas for years. What do you expect from its successor and which (improved) performance features does the LC 300 bring with it?

Neue Basis für Sonderschutzfahrzeuge
Holger Stockey has been the company's managing director since SMS Special Mobility Services GmbH was founded in 2021. From many years of work in special protection construction, he has extensive experience in all current areas of application worldwide and is in contact with users from the military, police and civil sectors.
As the person responsible for important international customer relationships, he is actively involved in the technological development of protective vehicles at the WELP Group. (Photo: WELP)

Stockey: In view of the more stringent emissions regulations worldwide, Toyota has also withdrawn from the very popular V8 engines. The completely new, significantly lower-emission range of engines (V6 engines in both the petrol and diesel versions) is not only convincing on paper when it comes to performance. The first driving impressions are also very promising and show no loss of performance compared to the V8 engines, quite the opposite. In addition, the new base vehicle impresses with new technical and interactive options in the interior.

The expectations of our customers will undoubtedly be, on the one hand, the increased protection factor and blast protection against various hand grenades and land mines.

ES & T: Are there any restrictions compared to the LC 200 and can the weight load for operational equipment be kept?

Stockey: New and lighter materials / structures of the base vehicle require new solutions, which our engineers are currently implementing thanks to the good cooperation with Toyota. Thanks to our in-house material development and our hot forming plant, we can also use new material components and bring them into line with the new structure.
As things stand now, we can offer our customers with our internally designated "F3-TLC" with up to 1,000 kg similar payloads to the previous model.

ES & T: What maximum protection can you achieve within the upper weight limit and what role does the chassis play in this?

Stockey: The maximum possible protection is one of the most important criteria for our customers. At least as important is an approved chassis with all the special components and modifications required for this.

The combination of the highest quality materials and the tested, audited production of the protective solution is decisive for our customers. Every special protection vehicle that is built corresponds to the tested and certified prototype in terms of construction, material use and design. Manual reworking or alternative constructions or materials are not permitted.

The choice of materials and construction of the protective elements paired with a chassis developed for the respective protection class offer our responsible customers the certainty that they are fulfilling their duty of care towards the users of the specially protected SUV. The protection implemented depends on the requirements of the respective customer and can - specified according to different protection classes - extend up to the highest civil protection classes.

Neue Basis für Sonderschutzfahrzeuge
An era with the most frequently used civil protection vehicle for aid organizations, embassies and, last but not least, internationally operating military units is coming to an end. We are talking about the Toyota Land Cruiser 200, which has been in service with several thousand vehicles since 2008. The largest fleet owners are the aid organizations of the United Nations. The supplier of the base vehicle has run out of production in the last few months. A successor model is already available: the Toyota Land Cruiser 300 with new technical equipment.
The new model means a new challenge for the bodybuilder of these protective vehicles in the international and national area in terms of the development and certification of the vehicles. New prototypes have to be set up and certified within a very short time in order to meet customer requirements. (Photo: WELP)

ES & T: Which protection classes are implemented and who checks them?

Stockey: With the F3-TLC, at least the protection classes and protection requirements that are known from the TLC200 (F2-TLC) are achieved, both in the ballistic and in the shock wave range (blast / IED). The test is carried out exclusively by accredited offices and service providers in accordance with the latest version of the relevant test standards.

The guidelines and regulations of the Association of Testing Centers for Attack Resistant Materials and Constructions (VPAM BRV 2009, VPAM ERV 2010) and NATO in the Standardization Agreements (e.g. STANAG 4569 AEP-55) are decisive.

ES & T: How do you estimate the time required to manufacture the first prototype? How is the WELP Group positioned in terms of capacity here?

Neue Basis für Sonderschutzfahrzeuge
Neue Basis für Sonderschutzfahrzeuge
Neue Basis für Sonderschutzfahrzeuge
The Landcruiser 300 is the successor as the basis for specially protected vehicles (Photo: WELP)

Stockey: Our modular, of course fully tested and certified armor screw kit allows us to develop in the shortest possible time and offers high flexibility, especially with regard to add-on components.

The WELP Group has more than 70 permanent employees in development as well as an in-house firing channel for advance development. For the safety of our customers, we will invest several thousand hours of development in this project. Based on our many years of experience in the development, production and certification of special protection vehicles, we are confident that we will be able to offer the first F3-TLC in a tested and successfully certified version as early as the beginning of 2022.

Our absolute focus here is on the quality, reliability and reproducibility of our protection solutions. One-offs, small and small batches receive the same maximum attention in the WELP Group as our special protection solutions for OEM customers.

ES & T: When will the F3-TLC be available in sufficient quantities?

Stockey: Our unique armor concept allows us to go into series production almost immediately after the prototype has been certified. The first customer orders for a tested and certified version of our F3-TLC are already available.

As things stand, the locations of these first-order vehicles will not be in Europe. Based on the first, very positive customer feedback and our advance planning, which was also carried out on the purchasing side, we see ourselves well equipped to process planned customer deliveries as early as the beginning of 2022.

ES & T: Could the Bundeswehr become a possible customer?

Stockey: In principle, we cannot comment on current or potential customers. Of course, there is absolutely no question that the Bundeswehr is always a very interesting and demanding potential customer. And yes, we discuss their current and future needs with many NATO and non-NATO armed forces and police organizations.

ES & T: The LC 200 is currently still in production. Is there an overview of the delivery schedule? How long can you still deliver vehicles based on this?

Stockey: Over the past two years, we have held intensive discussions with our customers in order to sound out the need for specially protected SUVs based on the Toyota Land Cruiser 200. On this basis, we have actively developed a stocking strategy that gives us the necessary flexibility to also supply new customers with sufficient quantities.

Nevertheless, the decision-making horizon for all customers is getting shorter to make purchases on the basis of the Toyota Land Cruiser 200, because all supplies are finite and demand is high. Alternatively, procurers must already look specifically in the direction of the F3-TLC or alternatives at this point in time.

In this context, I would like to explicitly mention that the WELP Group has other tested and certified off-road vehicles in its portfolio, for example the very robust Land Cruiser 70 series, the Nissan Patrol or the GRAND SUV family GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban, Cadillac Escalade.

The interview was conducted Gerhard Heiming.