In the United States, a dip in car sales occasionally gets blamed on a bad storm or a maybe a flood or some other act of God. But in Italy an act of the pope can keep buyers out of the showroom.
Opel sales chief Duncan Aldred last week said all major European car markets were below expectations in February, but noted that the real surprise was Italy. He called it shocking when the already-decimated Italian market dropped 20 percent below the figure for February 2012.
Aldred said the resignation of Pope Benedict was a factor. "It just creates more uncertainty in the marketplace," he said. "Not only have you got political elections, but the pope resigns for the first time in 600 years, so it doesn't do much to inspire confidence in the whole country."