Blessed To Be Popemobile: Fiat Provides Rides For Pope Francis' U.S. Visit
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Tough week for Volkswagen, but Fiat is #Blessed, or at least that's what the car company tweeted after Pope Francis arrived in D.C. yesterday and got into a modest charcoal-gray Fiat 500L. The Pope has famously shunned luxury cars, and the Fiat...
AARON BRAGMAN: Kind of speaks to, I think, the frugality of the message that he seems to have had over the last year.
MCEVERS: Aaron Bragman is Detroit bureau chief for cars.com. He says the Fiat is smaller than some cars but just big enough.
BRAGMAN: It's got a bit more space inside, a bit more headroom, which might be useful if he's got his hat on.
MCEVERS: In Rome, Francis uses a Ford Focus - hardly the throne on wheels that, say, Pope Paul VI used - a Mercedes Pullman.
BRAGMAN: The 600 Pullman was one of the most expensive cars of its day. It was huge. It was comfortable. It was secure. It was basically a limousine that you'd see world leaders and, unfortunately, a lot of African dictators riding around in.
MCEVERS: Bragman says unlike those Pullmans, which could be heavily armored, the Fiat 500L can't be armored. It can't handle the extra weight. And the U.S. version of the Popemobile - a modified Jeep Wrangler - is wide open.
BRAGMAN: It also says something about, I think, his trust of the world around him and his ability to really get in there amongst the people and connect with the people. He's not putting these layers of protection and insulation between him and a lot of the world at large.
MCEVERS: Aaron Bragman of cars.com says he's not sure if the pope can do for Fiat sales what Michelle Obama does for dress sales, but...
BRAGMAN: It doesn't hurt to have one of the most powerful people in the world riding around in one of your cars. And if it helps the 500L in particular, frankly, it could use the help.
MCEVERS: Even if sales don't go up, the pope has taught us a lesson. Blessed are the small-of-cargo-space, for they shall be able to find parking in D.C. - well, when the pope isn't in town.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.