News & Politics

The Pope Lends Some Buzz to a Fiat Model

The Pope in his Fiat. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Pope Francis’s decision to use a Fiat 500L to get around cities during his American tour represents a departure from his predecessors—both in its modest size and the values it projects: humility, low environmental impact, less concern for status.

But Fiat is doing pretty well by the pope’s choice of car, too.

“Yeah, all of a sudden, this is a buzz,” says Mark Cowdin, General Sales Manager at Safford Fiat of Tysons Corner. “A lot of our customers that already own the 500 are like, ‘Now I’ve got a popemobile.'”

Cowdin notes that Francis appears to be riding in the Easy model, which with a starting MSRP of about $21,000 is the second-cheapest in the line.

Fiat’s corporate headquarters declined to comment for this article and directed all inquiries to the Vatican’s US Embassy. That organization was, as you might suspect, busy at the moment and referred Washingtonian to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who has not yet responded to a request for more information.

Fiat is relatively new to the American market, having re-entered in 2011 after Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne swooped in and purchased a stake in Chrysler (which later translated into full ownership) after the near-collapse of the American auto industry in 2009.

The 500L does not sell as well as the two-door 500. But, says Cowdin, “It is a pretty good seller… And my guess is it’s going to start selling a little better now.”