BMW has handed the keys to an X5 full-size sport utility vehicle to Pope Benedict, the world's largest premium carmaker said yesterday.
"We are proud to be able to provide Pope Benedict XVI with a BMW car," group chief of marketing and sales, Michael Ganal, said following an audience with the pontiff.
Benedict hails from the small Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn, an hour's drive from Munich, where BMW is based.
Apart from a fleet of BMW C1 covered scooters, the official Vatican car park only has one BMW 5-Series executive and one 7-Series limousine.
The well-known " Popemobile" by comparison is a modified M-Class SUV built in 1999 by BMW ' s arch rival Mercedes-Benz. The first Popemobile was delivered in 1981 after the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
Stepping up security measures, the Vatican equipped the G-Class with the distinctive bubble in which the pontiff waves to the faithful behind armoured glass.
"This vehicle is not the Popemobile," a spokesman for BMW said, referring to the X5 now parked in the Vatican.
Benedict - Joseph Ratzinger - was elected pope in April.