Fisker Says It's Building a Popemobile. The Vatican Seems None the Wiser

Fisker's claims that its founders held a "private audience" with the Pope are being disputed.
Chris Young
Fisker's papal transport conceptFisker

Electric vehicle automaker Fisker claimed last month that it will build a 'Popemobile' after co-founders Henrik Fisker and Dr. Geeta Gupta-Fisker held a "private audience" with the Pope, the company wrote in a press release at the time.

Now, new reports have emerged suggesting Fisker's claims might have been the culmination of a guerilla marketing campaign sprung on the Pope during a meet and greet attended by many guests.

Fisker's 'private audience' with the Pope was really a public audience

As a new report by The Verge points out, the meeting in which Henrik Fisker proposed an electric SUV to carry out official papal transport in late 2022, was not a pre-planned meeting with the Pope.

Instead, Henrik Fisker and Geeta Gupta-Fisker briefly met with Pope Francis during an educational event at Palazzo San Callisto in Rome.

During this meeting, Henrik Fisker showed Pope Francis a graphic of the Fisker 'Popemobile', saying he will build it for him next year.

Pope Francis, a Spanish speaker who has openly stated he has a low level of English, seemingly had to move on before Henrik Fisker's pitch was fully translated by his interpreter, as an aide was pointing him to the next attendant at the event.

Fisker Says It's Building a Popemobile. The Vatican Seems None the Wiser
Henrik Fisker presenting an illustration of the Fisker papal transport to Pope Francis. Source: Fisker

All of this is greatly at odds with the way Fisker presented the news to the world. In the company's press release, titled "Fisker Set to Make First All-Electric Papal Transport," it says it aims to deliver an adapted version of the Fisker Ocean to the Pope next year.

The company also claims the Fiskers had a "private audience," which gives a wholly different impression to the reality of a quick pitch made during a public event. The press release seems to all but confirm that a formal agreement is in place with the Vatican, which did not include the Fiskers in its official audience list for that day.  

More false claims by EV automaker CEOs?

It's worth noting that, much like Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Henrik Fisker has been known to make bold claims that don't end up coming true.

At Fisker's initial launch, the company claimed its first vehicle would feature "breakthrough" solid-state batteries with a range of 500 miles and a charge time of one minute — it has since announced it dropped those plans.

Henrik Fisker's behavior draws obvious comparisons to that of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, which has landed him in hot water with the SEC in the past.

In 2018, Elon Musk was made to step down as chairman of Tesla for at least three years and pay $20 million in fines, due to "misleading tweets" that caused Tesla’s stock price to jump by over six percent. 

In separate news, the CEO and CFO of EV automaker Lordstown Motors recently resigned amid claims that the company had misled investors by placing "fake orders" for its vehicles.

Is this a guerilla marketing campaign from Fisker?

For all we know, a formal agreement is indeed in place, though Fisker could just as easily build, and say it's delivering, the Pope's new papal transport next year without any contract having been signed.

The company's press release leaves enough room for interpretation, that it may well be the latter — why wouldn't you state that a formal agreement had been agreed?

What's more, Fisker's press release stated the meeting took place with "Pope Francis, the Holy See, in Vatican City." In truth, the meeting took place outside the walls of Vatican City, in the Italian capital's Travestere neighborhood, where the Palazzo San Callisto is located.

In a world where the Tesla Cybertruck smashed window debacle — which several outlets have claimed was done on purpose as part of a guerilla marketing campaign — was followed by record pre-orders for the company, perhaps Fisker's approach is that any press is good press.  

The exact moment in which Henrik Fisker presents the Fisker papal transport idea to Pope Francis can be viewed in the video below, released by the Vatican, at around the 14-minute, 30-second mark.

We reached out to the Vatican press office for comment and will update the article with any updates.

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