No doubt much to the delight of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Sergio Marchionne, the Vatican recently announced that Pope Francis would use a modified Jeep Wrangler to serve as the popemobile for his upcoming U.S. visit September 22 to 27. Pope Francis will visit New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
In years past (but as recently as 1978), the primary mode of public transport for popes was the sedia gestatoria, which was a chair carried on the shoulders of papal attendants. Although popemobiles have existed since 1930 (from 1870 to 1929, popes refused to leave the Vatican at all!), popemobiles were usually luxury brand vehicles. However, the choice of a Jeep Wrangler to serve as the popemobile for Pope Francis is not surprising when one considers that Pope Francis, who is the first citizen from the Americas, first non-European and first Jesuit priest to be named pope, chose the name Francis in part because he was believed to be a man of peace and a man of poverty. Pope Francis has reportedly made it known that he rejects the wealthier choices of vehicles previously used by the Vatican, favoring more common vehicle styles such as the Ford Focus that was recently delivered to him for his personal travel. Pope Francis reportedly has urged other priests to do the same and buy more “humble” cars.
Although FCA has not released details concerning the configuration of the popemobile, more than one is reportedly already in the hands of the Secret Service, and it is expected to be similar to the one that Pope Francis used for his July visit to Ecuador. (There is always a reserve popemobile in case of unforeseen problems.) The popemobile that Pope Francis used this summer in Ecuador was a white Jeep Wrangler, modified with a glass-front roof with open sides and an elevated platform in what would be the rear seat, thus allowing Pope Francis to actually reach out and get closer to the throngs of people who turned out to greet him. Pope Francis reportedly has said that he prefers to not use a bulletproof popemobile because it is akin to a “glass sardine can” that keeps him from the people. Acknowledging the risks inherent in not using a bulletproof enclosure, the popular pontiff reportedly quipped, “It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose.”
One feature that was not modified on the popemobile – Jeep’s distinctively giant grille. :|||||: Presumably because it’s a Jeep thing.
Ann Marie Uetz specializes in supply chain contracts and other matters concerning the manufacturing industry. She is also the proud owner of a white Jeep Wrangler. Follow Ann Marie on Twitter @amuetz.