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2011-06-27 07:31

VATICAN V8: Considering his fleet of V8-powered G-Class Geländewagens, Pope knows he has to reduce his CO2 emissions. Will he be as keen to give up the leather-trim option though?

An animal rights group has urged Pope Benedict XVI to "truly go green" and insist that the next popemobile is made without leather.

PETA said it has written to the pope with the request following the Vatican's confirmation that Mercedes-Benz is making a study of a hybrid, energy-saving popemobile. The car would replace the current Mercedes ML used when the pope travels abroad.

PETA spokeswoman Ashley Gonzalez says leather production is not only "toxic to the environment, it's also hell for cows."

The letter underlining its stance sees PETA stating it counts many Catholics among its members and suggested that a leather-free car could "help the environment and prevent animal suffering."


The Vatican press office says it hadn't yet seen the letter and couldn't comment.

PETA, interestingly, has not stated what material substitute for leather would be acceptable to its protocols and retain the required premium luxury feel suitably for God's representative on earth. In all likelihood alcantara, made from a near two-thirds to one-third blend of polyester and polyurethane (and popular as a high-end cabin trim material in most luxury and performance cars) is sure to be the best replacement for the popemobile's leather conundrum.

Benedict has made conserving resources an important concern of his papacy. Vatican officials say a green popemobile would be a sign of his efforts to promote sustainable energy and take care of the planet.

Mercedes-Benz engineers have been commissioned to produce a new hybrid-powered popemobile able to reduce his holiness’s carbon footprint whilst retaining enough reliable mobility to power out of potentially threatening situations. Benedict desired an all-electric solar powered popemobile, but, considering the weight of armoured glass (and steel) added to his fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, range would be very limited, and on a cloudy day an assassination attempt would become awfully easy.

When he is outside the Vatican, Benedict usually rides in a modified white Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen, outfitted with bulletproof windows. It has room for two passengers in addition to the pope, who sits on an elevated chair to wave to crowds.

Through the years, a number of different models have been donated to the Vatican, in what remains one of the most powerful instances of automotive product placement available - something Mercedes-Benz is keen to retain a monopoly of sorts over.

Mercedes-Benz has been the Vatican’s supplier of choice with regards to mobility for more than eight decades. It all started with a 1930 Mercedes-Benz Nurburg 460 Pullman limousine, delivered to Pope Pius XI. The Vatican's current fleet includes a 2002 M430, built for the previous pontiff, John Paul II, as well as a 2007 G500 cabriolet and a 2008 G500 hardtop built for the German-born Benedict. Indeed, the pattern has been quite clear, the Vatican likes its Mercedes-Benz products powered by V8s...


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