FRANKFURT -- BMW has handed the keys to an X5 SUV to Pope Benedict, the world's largest premium carmaker said on Thursday.
"We are proud to be able to provide Pope Benedict XVI with a BMW car," the group's chief of marketing and sales, Michael Ganal, said in a statement following an audience with the pontiff.
Benedict hails from the small Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn, about 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 two BMW sedans, a 5 series and a 7 series.
The well-known "Popemobile" is a modified G-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 armored 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. The following month an Internet casino company won a frenzied online auction for a second-hand Volkswagen Golf once registered to Cardinal Ratzinger.