Nissan Mauritius creates once-off NP300 Popemobile

Over the last few decades, we’ve seen some fairly spectacular Popemobiles.

Just like presidents, VIPs and high-profile businessmen, the Pope requires a specially built vehicle to protect him from possible harm.

On his recent visit to Mauritius, he used a Nissan NP300.

of Mauritius, on his three-country visit to Africa in September 2019.

The Roman Catholic Church has been using specially built cars for the pontiff since 1965 when Pope Paul VI used one to greet the crowds in New York, but the so-called ‘pope-mobile’ complete with viewing deck which officially replaced the hand carried has been in use since 1978. Several manufacturers have had the honour of making vehicles over the years, but this was the first time the honour fell to Nissan and more specifically, Nissan’s Mauritian NSC ABC Motors.

ABC Motors supplied the Nissan NP300 Hardbody, which was then sent to its subsidiary company ABC Coachworks to be modified according to Vatican specifications. Overseen by the Diocese of Mauritius, the work was a first for the company which normally specialises in coach and bus building as well as modifying vehicles for police, ambulance and fire-fighting specifications, as well manufacturing canopies for pick-ups.

“ABC Automobile, as one big family, put all its heart into the design of a Popemobile worthy of this name and of Vatican’s standard. We were and still are amazed by the outcome of three months of pure hard work. We felt an immense sense of belonging and accomplishment when we watched His Holiness in this Popemobile we made with our own hands. We are so proud for having contributed, in our own way, to the arrival of the Pope,” says ABC Automobile Managing Director Dean Ah-Chuen.

Jim Dando, Nissan Group of Africa’s director of Sales and Operations, said the Vatican’s decision to use the legendary Nissan Hardbody was a fantastic testament to the vehicle’s enduring longevity and popularity across all African markets.

“I’m particularly pleased too about the honour that was accorded ABC Motors. They have been the Nissan NSC on the island country for 34 years – and in the last 19 years they have been the market leader every year, except for two. It’s a remarkable achievement in any market, but particularly Mauritius because of the highly competitive environment there.

“Normally a market has a leader at around 30% market share with one to two rivals chasing them, in Mauritius though ABC leads perhaps the most competitive market in Africa – and that includes South Africa – with between 14 and 16% market share, which means that there are five competitors biting at their heels.

“Since their establishment in 1985, they’ve won a range of Nissan awards across the spectrum from sales to after sales and spare parts facilities, most notably the Nissan gold prize several times and the Nissan Global Award in 2005 and 2007,” said Dando, “but I’m surely they will treasure this accolade just as much.”

ABC Motors is a subsidiary of ABC Group which was founded in 1931 by Sir Jean Etienne Moilin Ah-Chuen. The group is one of the top 25 business conglomerates in Mauritius employing more than 1 400 people across five clusters: food distribution and manufacturing, automotive, banking, financial services and shipping & logistics. ABC Automobile is the group’s flagship division, employing almost half the group’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 as a memento of the pope’s visit to the island.