Vatican chooses Japanese carmaker for pontiff’s island visit
A Nissan NP300 Hardbody provided the basis for a unique Popemobile during a stopover last month in Mauritius by Pope Francis as part of a three-country visit to Africa, marking the first time a pontiff has used a vehicle manufactured by the brand.
According to a statement issued by Nissan, the Roman Catholic Church has been using specially developed vehicles for papal visits since 1965, when Pope Paul VI used one in New York. However, it was not until 1978 that a Popemobile – complete with viewing deck – was introduced.
Though several manufacturers have had the privilege of transporting the pope over the years, this was the first time the honour fell to Nissan and, more specifically, Nissan’s Mauritian national sales distributor, ABC Motors.
The company supplied the NP300 Hardbody, which was modified to meet Vatican specifications by its subsidiary, ABC Coachworks. The work was overseen by the Diocese of Mauritius.
“ABC Motors, as one big family, put all its heart into the design of a Popemobile worthy of its name and of the Vatican’s standards. We are still amazed by the outcome of three months of hard work.
“We felt an immense sense of belonging and accomplishment when we watched His Holiness in a Popemobile made with our own hands. We are so proud of having contributed, in our own way, to the pope’s visit,” said Dean Ah-Chuen, managing director of ABC Motors.
Jim Dando, Nissan Group of Africa’s director of sales and operations, said the Vatican’s decision to use the Hardbody was testament to the vehicle’s enduring longevity and popularity across all African markets.
“I’m particularly pleased about the honour that was accorded ABC Motors. The company has been Nissan’s distributor on the island for 34 years and has won a range of awards, most notably the Nissan gold prize several times and the Nissan Global Award in 2005 and 2007,” said Dando.
ABC Motors is a subsidiary of ABC Group, which was founded in Mauritius in 1931 by Sir Jean Etienne Moilin Ah-Chuen. The group is one of the country’s top 25 business conglomerates and employs more than
1 400 people across five clusters: food distribution and manufacturing, automotive, banking, financial services and shipping and logistics. ABC Motors is the group’s flagship division, employing almost half the conglomerate’s staff.
The Nissan NP 300 Hardbody, with its unique SCV1 number plates – an abbreviation of the Latin Status Civitatis Vaticanae (Vatican City State), will be put on permanent display by the Diocese of Mauritius as a memento of the pope’s visit to the island.