Kia Motors’ Soul won the honor of being the Popemobile during Pope Francis’ recent visit to Korea. He landed at the Seoul Airport in the morning of August 14 and moved to the Apostolic Nunciature in Korea, located in Gungjeong-dong, Seoul, in a navy-colored Soul. He is the third pope in history to visit Korea.
Pope Francis has visited two other countries before Korea since his inauguration last year. He refused to use a bulletproof vehicle in both cases in order to get closer to the people. Prior to his visit this time, he expressed his intent to use a small Korean car.
The pope is well known for his thrifty way of living. He uses a Ford Focus instead of his private car in the Vatican. During his visit to Brazil in July last year, he used a Fiat Idea, a locally produced car with an engine displacement of only 1,600cc.
The Soul came into the spotlight across the world during the visit of the pope, but Kia Motors is refraining from utilizing it for marketing purposes. “We are very glad to see the pope using our car, but we will not connect his visit to any marketing or PR activities,” said the company.
The publicity effect is expected to be huge worldwide because particularly European news channels specify the brand and model of the popemobile. In fact, the Soul is already enjoying much popularity in many markets. For example, in the first half of this year, the sales volume reached approximately 75,000 units in the U.S, 4,400 in Europe, 3,200 in Eastern Europe, and 2,800 in Latin America. The model was released in the U.S. market in February 2009, and its cumulative sell-through broke the 500,000 mark there in June this year.