The 77-year-old has been displaying a preference towards small or compact rides, in a departure from the usual “Popemobiles” of the past – like the well known custom-built, bulletproof Mercedes-Benz that Pope John Paul II used.
The latest car of choice? Kia’s Soul. The compact car has now garnered a huge image boost, and one that hip-hop-dancing hamsters could have never achieved. The Pope has chosen the model for his five-day visit to South Korea, where he will meet with President Park Geun Hye and preside over a beatification ceremony for Korean martyrs that could attract hundreds of thousands on August 16.
“This will help Kia by bringing far-reaching exposure through the mass media,” Kim Jin Kook, chief executive officer of auto researcher Marketing Insight, said by phone. “That exposure will be related to the pope, who has a very positive image among the general public, which in return will trigger a halo effect for Kia.”
The latest spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics is often seen at home in the back of a 20-year-old Fiat and he also used a hatchback model of the Italian company during his visit to Brazil in July 2013. The pontiff’s latest choice is a victory for Kia, who’s earnings overseas are eroded by the fast-rising won – actually the fastest-appreciating major currency during the last quarter.