Pope's Tiny Car Makes Big Impression
'It's just such a perfect metaphor for his message'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2015 5:19 PM CDT
Pope Francis waves from a Fiat 500L as his motorcade departs from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(Newser) – Pope Francis' small black Fiat made quite an impression this week in Washington DC, buffered on either side by the large SUVs of his motorcade, NPR reports. "It looks like a clown car when they all get in it," a director of the Catholic University of America says. "But it's just such a perfect metaphor for his message." The pope's focus on poverty extends to his choice of transportation—he drives himself around the Vatican and once took the bus home—and it's been no different during his first visit to the United States. "The [Fiat] 500L, with its no-frills, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and its starting list price of $19,935, is a proletarian workhorse that suits Francis's plain cassocks and his emphasis on humility," the Washington Post writes.

The Fiat and its open windows are a far cry from the bullet-proof pope-mobiles of recent years, not to mention vehicles typically preferred by visiting dignitaries. One man watching the pope go by reflected on Mikhail Gorbachev's limo in the '80s, so large it couldn't maneuver a good chunk of DC's turns. "[The Fiat] could make circles in one lane," he tells NPR. "Everybody is talking about that Fiat." That could be good news for Fiat Chrysler, which has seen low and dropping sales in the United States, according to the Post. One dealer hopes the pope's choice of car will at least double sales. "It's created a lot of buzz," he says. "We're very grateful for that. It's advertising we don't have to pay for."