Motor Show Hookers

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Why do car manufacturers still feel compelled to drape female flesh over their show cars? If I wanted to ogle underfed women with thousand yard stares, I'd go to Harvey Nichols, not the British Motor Show. Not only does the practice fly in the face of one hundred years of women's liberation, it detracts from the cars. Like most male enthusiasts, I find a close encounter with a well-formed motorcar exciting enough. It's difficult to focus on the true object of my affections when confronted by a scantily clad girl trying to look friendly without encouraging actual intercourse.

I'm sure the sexual intimidation is intentional. Everyone is well aware that Motor Show babes know less about cars than a Congolese banana grower. An army of midriffs, breasts and legs protects the PR Flacks from punters' probing questions about new gear ratios and the wisdom of clear indicator lenses. The girls also provide notoriously competitive (and male dominated) car manufacturers with yet another arena for establishing bragging rights. To wit: "Did you see the Nissan stand? Lousy cars, great tits."

Despite the gradual infiltration of women into the auto industry, despite a growing respect for female customers, motor shows remain resolutely unreconstructed. If anything, the totty factor is getting worse. Only the smallest makers, such as Noble Moy Automotive and Lotus, offered breast free zones for their car-mad customers. Some, like Peugeot, have toned down and themed their car babes' outfits. Others, like Volkswagen, try to disguise the inherent sexism by dressing their women in executive mufti and placing them behind bunker-like reception desks.

Sorry. No matter how posh the fabric, no matter how subtle the non-product placement, motor show hotties remain sexist window dressing.

The big players have recently raised the game, showcasing celebrity squeeze. From a marketing point of view, the logic is as daft as it is inescapable. Rover's Atomic Kitten photo op was supposed to create a subconscious link between their cars and the nuclear felines' poptasticness. The epileptic explosion of flash photography greeting the girls actually proved little more than one good whore deserves another. It was almost as bizarre as Ford using Kylie Minogue– a singer appealing to 12-year-olds, gays and ass-oriented middle-aged lechers– to glamorise its thoroughly dated and ungainly city car.

You could almost forgive Rover and Ford for their crass exploitation of the female form. The former sells downmarket motors redesigned for boy racers, and the latter currently carries more debt than Paraguay. But Audi? You wouldn't expect carmakers that sell interiors so dour they make funeral homes look cheerful to send show-goers an automotive mammogram.

And yet, there it was: British singer Jay Kay sitting on an A8 next to "top society model" Lisa Butcher. While Mr. Kay's well-known love of Ferraris and Lamborghinis may lend Audi's latest luxo-barge a bit of much-needed performance cred, Ms. Butcher's low-cut and kinky leather ensemble naturally lead the imagination towards the rear seats. Let's face it: once you're going down that road, you might as well rent a proper limo. Unless you like to mix plastic with aluminium, buying an A8 would be a needless extravagance.

The car stand slut thing indicates just how stale motor shows have become. Once upon a time, before television, car magazine proliferation and the Internet; car shows delivered real suspense. These days, enthusiasts have seen all the new models from every conceivable angle, and in motion, long before they fork over their inflated entry fee. The only thrill left is seeing a cherished model "in the flesh"– a buzz only true diehards can savour.

Ferrari's contribution to the British Motor Show exemplified this new reality, albeit inadvertently. Their cost-saving stand showcased a spinning black Enzo. The car was perfectly lit, raised and tilted for maximum visual access. And that's it. No brochures. No girls. Niente. Short of surrendering the keys, it was all a car nut could ask for. Even so, given the size of the NEC and the scale of the motor show experience, less is not enough.

It's depressing that the industry has failed to rise to the challenge of reinventing the car show genre. The Dolly Birds are a symbol of the rot. By continuing to rely on tits and ass to attract customers to their stands, manufacturers show a staggering lack of imagination. The skimpy, skin-tight girls are a cheap and mock cheerful way to avoid having to do anything innovative with the actual product or its presentation.

There are a few encouraging signs of life. MINI staged an impressive display of automotive stuntery that kept the focus firmly on their product's agility. But it remains to be seen whether manufacturers and show organisers will re-invent the entire genre to avoid its extinction. Forums? VR? HDTV? One thing is for sure. Unless teenage boys are the car show's future, it's time to send the car geishas packing.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

More by Robert Farago

Join the conversation
 1 comment
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Supporting EVs is supporting Chi-nah.
  • Eliyahu Oh, a nicer looking 2025 Camry!
  • Analoggrotto Sell Canada to Mexico.
  • MaintenanceCosts Just here to say thanks for the gorgeous picture of Vancouver, which may be my favorite city in the world.
  • TheMrFreeze I don't doubt that trying to manage a company like Stellantis that's made up of so many disparate automakers is a challenge, but Tavares asking for so much money is simply bad form. With the recent UAW strike and the industry still in turmoil, now is not the time. And as somebody with a driveway full of FCA products, I'd just like to say how much I miss Sergio and FCA. At least with him Chrysler and Dodge stood a chance of long term survival...