Pope Francis is lighting a candle for Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F), and he probably doesn’t even know it.
Head over to Vatican City and you might catch a glimpse of the Pope whizzing around in his simple yet efficient Ford Focus compact. His vehicle of choice is an example of a “humble” car that the head of the Catholic Church has encouraged his new priests and nuns to start driving — and although Pope Francis didn’t send the message for Ford’s sake, the U.S. automaker still has the big man to thank for the dose of publicity.
The attention Pope Francis has granted Ford with his choice of vehicle comes at just the right time and place for the car manufacturer, which is still facing flailing sales in Europe as the region continues to recover from the global recession. While Ford has been able to post impressive U.S. sales and continue to roll out big-ticket products, it is still working to stem losses in the hurting Europe auto industry, and that’s where the Pope comes in.
While Bayerische Motoren Werke AG would likely rather Pope Francis sport a BMW X5 like his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the automaker shouldn’t hold its breath, because the pontif isn’t after luxury cars. According to Advertising Age, Pope Francis advised his followers on Saturday to live a more humble life, saying: “It hurts my heart when I see a priest with the latest model car. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.”
So the church’s leader has settled on a Ford Focus — and not even a new model, but a second-generation vehicle. This is global marketing gold for Ford, which desperately needs a European boost and would be more than happy to pay the Pope to drive around one of its cars. But Pope Francis hasn’t accepted any incentives, and he made the decision on his own to drive a vehicle that starts in the U.S. at $16,310. Though the main man hasn’t said anything to his priests and nuns about good fuel efficiency, it also comes with the package.
Despite the Focus’s lack of luxury, Pope Francis’s choice still demonstrates that he has good taste. The Ford Focus was the world’s best-selling car in 2012, and although it is unlikely the Pope will make any great speeches on his evaluation of the vehicle, his quiet Ford choice gives the U.S. automaker some bragging rights as it continues to combat Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE:TM) and make the oh-so-humble argument that it manufacturers the world’s best-selling vehicles.
Here’s how shares of Ford are trading in 2013: