March 20th, 2013
09:32 AM ET
9 years ago

Presidential limo breaks down ahead of Obama's arrival

Jerusalem (CNN) – An official limousine awaiting President Barack Obama's arrival in Israel malfunctioned Wednesday but the Secret Service now says the reason for the mechanical problem had nothing to do with the type of fuel used, as first reported.

"The appropriate gas was put in the car," Ed Donovan, spokesman for the Secret Service, told CNN.

Citing an official in the region, CNN reported, as did other media outlets, that the vehicle had been filled with gasoline instead of diesel fuel. At the time, the Secret Service did not waive reporters off the idea that the car had the wrong fuel.

Donovan said the vehicle actually doesn't have a diesel engine and runs on unleaded gasoline. The Secret Service is generally tight-lipped about details of the president's limousine, otherwise known as "The Beast."

Because the vehicle was built on a Chevrolet Kodiak chassis, whose engine runs on diesel fuel, it was believed that the limo also ran on diesel.

The Secret Service says the diagnostics are still ongoing.

However, an Israeli official adamantly stands by the story that the limousine was filled with the wrong type of fuel.

The limo failed to start, and required towing in Jerusalem at 10 a.m. local time. Obama, who landed in Tel Aviv around noon, was not in the country at the time the limo was towed. A second presidential limo was brought to transport Obama.

"We experienced mechanical trouble with one of the cars," Donovan told a pool reporter traveling with Obama earlier Wednesday. "We don't know the cause."

"That's why we bring different multiple vehicles," Donovan said.

The tow truck company owner who picked up the limo said the U.S. consulate called him to tow the vehicle in Jerusalem because it wouldn't start.

Multiple official vehicles are typically flown ahead of time to destinations where Obama is visiting. On his trip to the Mideast, Obama will stop in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in Israel, Ramallah in the West Bank, and will visit with Jordan's King Abdullah in that nation.

The presidential limousine is a specially built Cadillac that's estimated to weigh 8 tons. There are multiple, identical copies that are used to transport Obama around Washington and on his trips out of town.

The car reportedly features inches of armor and bulletproof glass, doors and windows that seal shut in the event of a gas attack, and special shocks to absorb blasts.

- CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: Israel • President Obama
soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. Jcraw

    Not a good start! What a Dingbat Driver! LOL. Get Obama a bicycle!

    March 20, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  2. nate

    Good maybe now dude will stop spending my tax money on his little car rides. Hopfully the dam air one jet will have problems and be grounded. more money we can save.

    March 20, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    I cannot see how this sort of mistake could have been made. One would assume that the driver is someone who has driven the vehicle before. As someone above mentioned above about "advance teams", at lot of work goes into moving these vehicles around. There's a lot more to it than a simple ferry ride. The vehicles should have been on the ground for several hours prior to his arrival, and they should have prepped immediately. Fueling up at the last minute is either a breach in discipline, poor planning and operating procedures, or a deliberate act of petty sabotage.

    March 20, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  4. Greenspam

    Today Republicans demanded hearing on why President Obama couldn't take public transportation like every poor person in America does.

    March 20, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  5. Greenspam

    They made the same mistakes in 1 season of Amazing Race.

    March 20, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  6. Tom Pernis

    Job posting coming soon. Limo driver wanted. Specifically the one that could read and distinguish the difference between gas and diesel. Wow now that's funny.

    March 20, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. lightseeker

    This is what happens when you have car parts being made under slave labor conditions in countries hostile to the United States. It's a wonder the wheels didn't fall of too. Bring back all of the manufacturing job to the United States where they belong and get rid of WALMART and all of the other big box stores. "All power to the people".

    March 20, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  8. wm

    Wow nate.... Would you still say that if W. was still potus?

    March 20, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. duke's place

    Please change headline as it insinuates there was a defect in the vehicle which was not the case.

    March 20, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  10. Jannynet

    Been there done that only in Norway. In the U.S. most diesel pumps have green nozzles. In other countries that may not be standard. Unless you have an experienced and fluent foreign language reader it is easy to do. We had been to Norway many times, fueling vehicles each time several times. On our last trip we got a bill for $600.00 US because hubby had used Benzine instead of diesel when filling the rental car (to save money) before turning it in. An expensive OOPS!

    March 20, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  11. B

    Another great opening monologue for Saturday Night Live!

    March 20, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  12. bob

    Failed Presidency, failed limo.

    March 20, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  13. T Rigney

    Oh THAT'S okay, they have a position guarding the Dog Catcher's assistant in Nome, Alaska. "Bring your MITTENS!!!....." 😉

    March 20, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  14. Thomas

    The driver refueled it using gasoline rather than diesel fuel.

    Who was the driver and did he find a new job ?

    March 20, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. Fred

    Or instead of petty sabotage, it could be a deliberate attempt to take control of the vehicle (during towing, etc) in order to examine specific features of it. These limos must have all sorts of security and communications equipment installed that certain agencies in Israel would be interested in.

    March 20, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. TomVIO

    I think the gasoline story is just a cover up... The car just broke down because it's American, and they are too embarrassed to say, so they made up a story about gasoline pumped instead of diesel.

    I live in New York and I love America, but honestly, American cars SUCK!!! The President should use either German or Japanese instead.

    Ex: fully armoured BMW 7 series Li model.

    March 20, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  17. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Rudy NYC


    March 20, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Today Republicans demanded hearing on why President Obama couldn't take public transportation like every poor person in America does."

    Yeah. Sums it up nicely. I'll wait for the rest of the story to "break". As with all conspiracy stories ... eventually (but not always) ... it usually ends up being nothing.

    I'm filing this as a slow news day story.

    March 20, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  19. Chad

    I figured "Satan" would have a better car than that!?!?!? That's what the Devil gets for using an American made car.
    Look out GM!!! Here comes the Drones!!!! LOL!!!!!

    March 20, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. lottie

    must be a slow news day.

    March 20, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  21. Name lynn

    Thats one of the people problems whos paying for the president trips, not the people tax money obama is paying for his own trips, hes helping the poor people obama dont need the people money. An dont mens know gas for oil, or do mens know how to read.

    March 20, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  22. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    Well, only the Devil or rather "Hanging CHADS" would have decided the outcome of the 2000 election. And what's the end result of your devilish act hanging CHAD??? Two deadly and costly wars, a severely inflated national debt and the worst economic crisis in America since the Great Depression.

    March 20, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  23. Jackson

    This story would be extremely funny if it weren't for the fact that taxpayers are now going to have to foot the bill for this mistake along with any damage made to this high priced vehicle. I find it extremely hard to believe that something so ridiculous could be done with such a technologically advanced vehicle. To watch any of the TV programs on "The Beast" or "Air Force One" you learn that these vehicles are constantly guarded and protected by the Secret Service and their fuel is transported as well. They don't just drive up to the local 'Circle K' and gas up like you & I. This sounds like a fake press release or a deliberate act of sabotage or terrorism.

    March 20, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  24. bgun

    Too bad, I think that was the limo transporting the golf clubs.

    March 20, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  25. mission accomplished


    Good maybe now dude will stop spending my tax money on his little car rides. Hopfully the dam air one jet will have problems and be grounded. more money we can save.


    Michelle Bachmann, is that you?

    March 20, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
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