First there was the Popemobile.
Then, during Pope Francis' U.S. visit, the highly-visible Fiat 500 that he rode in between events — even though the Secret Service stuck to its standard oversized SUVs for their escort vehicles.
Now Daimler AG has announced that the Pope has both blessed its new made-in-Argentina Mercedes-Benz Vito van and autographed the hood as part of a fundraiser for the social aid organization Scholas Occurrentes.
According to Daimler, Francis also blessed the van, the first Vito to be made in his home country. (Does a car have to be Catholic to be blessed? Do penance by transporting people only to church?)
The Vito likely is close to his heart. Not only was the model he signed the first Vito to roll off the assembly line in Buenos Aires — which has seen a $220 million investment in new capacity from Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler — the proceeds of an auction of his signed van will go to support sports, art and technology projects for socially disadvantaged children and teenagers in Argentina, including a youth soccer school.
A little extra recognition of the model will likely also be good for Daimler and for suppliers of interiors, seating, eight airbags, all-new LED lighting and hundreds of other plastic parts.