Kia got itself a holy endorsement after Pope Francis chose to have himself ferried by a Kia Soul during his five-day visit in the carmaker’s home turf, South Korea. According to organizers of the pope’s visit in the country, the head of the Catholic church was scheduled to preside over a beatification ceremony for Korean martyrs on Aug. 16, an event expected to be attended by hundreds of thousands of people.
The pontiff's choice underscores his preference for small cars. His predecessors had chosen to ride more comfortable Popemobiles, like the bulletproof Mercedes-Benz that carried Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI also rode in a bomb-proof Mercedes-Benz.
He also rode an Audi A8 during his visit to Germany. He received an electric vehicle from Renault in 2012, with chief executive Carlos Ghosn making a personal delivery. Kim Jin Kook, CEO of auto researcher Marketing Insight, told Bloomberg by phone that Pope Francis choosing Kia Soul will help the carmaker by bringing far-reaching exposure through the mass media.
He remarked that such will be connected to the pope who carries a very positive image among the general public, thereby triggering a halo effect for Kia. Kia told Bloomberg in e-mail that it is honored by the pope's use of the Soul.
Pope Francis usually rides on a 20-year old Fiat when making official visits. He used a Fiat hatchback during his visit to Brazil in July 2013. The Kia Soul is the Kia’s No. 4 best-seller overseas in 2012. For the first half of 2014, the Soul is eighth in the small minivan segment in Europe with 4,173 sales, according to figures from JATO Dynamics. [source: autoblog.com | image credit: Song Kyung-Seok-Pool/Getty]