|This Kia Soul pitchman beats dancing hamsters hands down.|
Major companies announced financial results for the second quarter yesterday, most of which declined due to the strengthening of the Korean won in the first half. Following Hyundai Motor’s slack quarterly earnings report Thursday, Kia Motors announced a decline in operating profit that it blamed on the won.Given such a scenario, Pope Francis requesting a modest compact car as his wheels of choice in South Korea was, ah, godsend for Kia. Practicing what he preaches, one of the world's most influential and powerful persons chooses to go around not in ostentatious bulletproof luxury cars but hatchbacks. Asking for a modest vehicle to carry him around, he chose the Kia Soul which is soulled [sic] around the world. Talk about free publicity:
Kia Motors said its second quarter profit fell 31.7 percent from a year earlier to 769.7 billion won. Its operating profit for the first half of 2014 was 1.5 trillion won, down 17.8 percent from the same period last year. Its revenue was 23.98 trillion won, a 0.9 percent fall from last year. “As 75 percent of our business comes from exports, a currency rate that fell 58 won on average in the first half caused a deterioration in profitability,” said the automaker in a release.
The pope slipped into the back of the [Kia Soul] and rolled down a window to wave at the welcoming party...[t]he pontiff’s choice is a victory for Kia at a time when the won, last quarter’s fastest-appreciating major currency, is eroding South Korean exporters’ earnings. The selection also underscores the pope’s preference for small cars, a departure from past “Popemobiles,” such as the custom-built, bulletproof Mercedes-Benz Pope John Paul II used to ride on.No power windows in 2014? Pope Francis is clearly downsizing. At any rate, the upshot of the recent papal visit to South Korea has been increased sales of the Kia Soul. Mind you, it's a good model anyway that provides exceptional space for a compact vehicle:
“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 so-called "Pope Francis" effect may have extended to the "popemobile" as well. Sales of Kia Motors' Soul model shot up last week, after Pope Francis used the compact car to get around during his trip to Korea.Catholicism in Korea is an interesting growth story that I will discuss another day. Lest you doubt its growing influence, I leave you with the 800,000-strong mass that Pope Francis held in downtown Seoul. Whatever views you may have of Catholicism, he is a huge draw in South Korea--a decidedly non-traditional market for the church in saving souls.
The company says an average of 32 cars were sold per day in the country right before the pope arrived until shortly after he left. That's up 63 percent compared to the same period last month. Kia forecasts global sales of the Soul model to spike as well in the months to come.