Popemobile Renault Espace GTS from 1986 by Matra. This car served for Pope John Paul II.

A popemobile is a specially designed motor vehicle used by the pope of the Catholic Church during public appearances. It is usually considered as the successor to the antiquated sedia gestatoria and was designed to allow the pope to be more visible when greeting large crowds.

The Renault Espace is a large five-door multi-purpose vehicle/MPV (M-segment) manufactured by Renault since 1984 for six generations.

The first three generations of the Espace were amongst the first contemporary minivans or MPVs, and were manufactured by Matra for Renault. The fourth generation, also an MPV, was manufactured by Renault. The Renault Grand Espace is a long wheelbase (LWB) version with increased rear leg room and boot size. The fifth generation is introduced with a crossover SUV-inspired styling while keeping the space-oriented MPV body style.

Renault described the fifth generation Espace as a ‘crossover-style MPV’ which combines elements of saloon, SUV and MPV, while retaining interior space and practicality of the latter.

The sixth generation debuted in 2023 as a 7-seater SUV based on the Austral.

The name “espace” means “space” in French. In February 2012, the Espace was retired in the United Kingdom, as part of a cost-cutting plan.

Matra (an acronym for Mécanique Aviation Traction) was a French industrial conglomerate. During its years of operation, it was engaged in a wide range of business activities, primarily focused around automobiles, bicycles, aeronautics and weaponry.

Following the acquisition of vehicle manufacturer Automobiles René Bonnet, the company formed Matra Automobiles during the 1960s and made the Matra brand famous through the production of a range of racing cars and sports cars. Its car division worked closely with other vehicle manufacturers, most significantly Renault, prior to the decline and sale of Matra Automobiles during the early 2000s. In addition to road cars, Matra entered into a wide range of businesses, eventually diversifying into media, weaponry, aeronautics, automobiles, and music distribution.

Matra was at one point owned by the Floirat family. Throughout much of the company’s existence, French businessman Jean-Luc Lagardère served as the CEO of Matra. During 1988, Matra was privatised; Lagardère’s stake in the company grew considerably over the following years.

During 1994, Matra became a subsidiary of the Lagardère Group. During February 1999, the company’s defence arm Matra Hautes Technologies (MHT), which held the firm’s aerospace, defence and telecommunications interests, was merged with French aerospace conglomerate Aérospatiale to form Aérospatiale-Matra. Several former assets of Matra continue to operate under the Lagardère name.

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