Fiat, not bulletproof Popemobile, fits pontiff's image in Brazil visit

July 24, 2013 at 6:41 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 24 (UPI) -- In keeping with the "Francis effect," the ascetic Pope Francis chose a Fiat Idea for his inaugural drive on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

Since becoming pope in March, Francis has become famous for eschewing expensive cars and other luxury items, making the Holy See's lifestyle more modest, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The drive ended in a wrong turn that left the pope tangled up in Brazilian traffic, the Journal reported.

While Pope Benedict XVI rode in a Mercedes Popemobile, Pope Francis decided to ride around in a product of Brazil's largest car maker; the large South American country is, in turn, one of Fiat's largest markets. Additionally, Italy, which is Fiat's home market, relies on Brazil to augment its quarterly earnings.

"During our conversations with the Vatican's officers, they analyzed all our Brazilian model range and preferred the Idea, due to its high roof, large internal space, ease getting in and out, large glass area and simplicity," Fiat spokesman Richard Gadeselli said.

The pope's Fiat Idea retails for $20,500 and is a typical family car that is very popular in Brazil, Gadeselli said.

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