Blessing from Pope Francis may help sell a few Souls

Pope Francis could create “a halo effect for Kia.”
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What is it about Pope Francis and mass market cars?

Kicking off a five-day visit to South Korea last week, the pope slipped into the back of a Kia Soul and rolled down a window to wave at the welcoming party, including President Park Geun-hye.

Riding in the Kia was the latest profession of faith in small cars by the pontiff, and it was good for the Soul.

"This will help Kia by bringing far-reaching exposure through the mass media," Kim Jin-kook, CEO of auto researcher Marketing Insight, told Bloomberg. "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."

Francis often makes official visits in a 20-year-old Fiat. He used a Fiat hatchback during his visit to Brazil in 2013.

Back home in the papal garage in Vatican City, he has a 2008 Ford Focus and a 1984 Renault 4 with about 190,000 miles on the clock, given to him by an Argentine priest.

All this is a departure from past popemobiles, such as the custom-built, bulletproof Mercedes-Benz that Pope John Paul II used to ride in. Pope Benedict XVI often rode in a bomb-proof Mercedes and used an Audi A8 during his visit to Germany. Kia said it is honored by the pope's use of the Soul, declining to comment on whether modifications were made to the vehicle.

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