Washington — Pope Francis is making his away around the United States in a decidedly modest vehicle — a Fiat 500L.
The black Fiat from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV with a Vatican license plate “SCV 1” stood out among the two dozen armored SUVs, police cars and other vehicles in the pontiff’s motorcade on Tuesday. Typically, foreign dignitaries are ferried in an older version of the presidential limousine — usually an armored Cadillac limo.
The British newspaper Daily Mail asked: “What would Jesus have been driven in? Dwarfed by massive secret service SUVs, Pope Francis is a big man in a little car.”
After traveling to the White House in the Fiat 500L on Wednesday, the pontiff switched to a modified version of arguably the most identifiably American U.S. vehicle — the Jeep Wrangler.
In August, the Vatican confirmed he would use a white modified Jeep Wrangler “Popemobile” like the one he used in Ecuador in July. It has a glass front and roof for people to see him while traveling.
Fiat Chrysler hasn’t disclosed any security enhancements but the Vatican said the vehicle was in the hands of the Secret Service last month.
At home, Pope Francis uses a blue Ford Focus to get around the Vatican, and during his visit to South Korea he used a Kia, The Associated Press reported.
President Barack Obama required Chrysler to tie up with Fiat in 2009 as part of a government bailout to rescue the struggling automaker. Now, Chrysler has been providing much of the profits to the Italian-American automaker.
Fiat was quick to tout the pope’s use of the 500L in social media postings.
Obama himself is no stranger to Fiat: He owned a red Fiat when he lived in Hawaii as a young man, according to several biographies.