Pope Francis has traveled in many vehicle brands, such as Isuzu, Kia, Hyundai, and, less often, a Mercedes Benz. For his United States visit, however, he selected a Jeep Wrangler platform, which US Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram dealers absolutely loved. Even the sales team at Antioch Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM, a full-service car dealership in Antioch, IL was quite pleased to hear this! This visit occurred in September of 2015. During that visit he spent lots of time being shuttled around in a fleet of Jeep Wrangler Popemobiles. The Pope used similar Jeeps during his summer 2015 trip to South America, to the countries of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.
You could say using a Jeep, rather than the more prestigious vehicle brands wanted by his predecessors, is example of the down-to-earth image the current Pope is attempting to project to our world. “It hurts me when I see a priest or nun with the latest model car,” he has said, “If a car is necessary, please, choose a more humble one. If you still personally want the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.”
Wrangler Popemobiles might not be prestigious SUVs but they’re far from being ordinary Jeeps. The Secret Service and Vatican will not release any sort of technical information on the current Popemobiles but the vehicles used by Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had interesting features. One may assume similar attributes would apply to the Wrangler vehicles. For example, the Mercedes-Benz Pope Benedict used when he came to the United States in 2008 was designed to drive up to 160 miles per hour in the event of an emergency. Clearly this is not your typical vehicle. Pope Benedict’s Mercedes was also made for roadway sabotage, with special tires that would still roll if suddenly deflated, at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. The underside of this vehicle was braced with thick steel plating for the Pope’s protection in event of an IED explosion.
Did you know that Pope Francis meets people without glass shielding? The Popemobile was an open-top vehicle until an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981. After that incident, John Paul and his successor, Benedict, almost never made parade appearances unless they were surrounded by bulletproof glass. Pope Francis has steered away from this tradition, though. “It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” he said. “I know that something could happen to me, but it’s (really) in the hands of God.”
Now that the Pope’s gone back to the Vatican City, the nation has time to reflect on his message and the meaning of his visit. What is interesting about his visit is his choice of vehicle and how strongly he felt about the image they portrayed. His message of austerity is definitely a strong one and something that will stick with people throughout his time as Pope.