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Girl TORQUE: Motor Show girls


How do companies use girls to attract attention to their cars?

Car shows may never be the same again; the chill air of recession and peak oil has brought a more sensible, real-world aura to the once fantabulous car show, and to the hooplah surrounding each new reveal.

My first international motor show was intimidating. Usually friendly journalists became cold-eyed competitors; jostling crowds surged around the stands, shoving and elbowing for the best photo op, the press packs, the interviews.

And the pressure; what if I’d overlooked the big news, the car we didn’t know would be there, the world-changing tech? So, when I saw the guys packed three deep round a camera on the airport bus, reviewing photos with a fevered intensity, I knew I’d missed a major.

Except I hadn’t. What they were admiring was pics produced with one editor’s new zoom. Forget the cars – he’d been trying to peer through the lacework shrouding one model’s ample bosom.
It wasn’t fair play that Alfa had the hottest girls – then put them in modest frocks, they said. Worse, the lattice veiling cleavage was a tease, doubly frustrating when other stands featured flesh aplenty.

It’s beyond me why a professional journalist should spend more time trying to zoom down a woman’s dress than paying attention to the main event – the cars. Don’t get me wrong, I like a nice bicep, or a washboard stomach. But not enough to forget the reason I’ve flown to Europe.

That guys are so easily distracted is clearly well known to car companies, though each brand – and country - takes a different approach.

For most, the girls are decorative. Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Land Rover – they go for class. The girls could grace a catwalk; you’d want to buy their clothes and you’ll believe they can tell you about the car – or at least find someone who can.

For other companies the girls are there for one reason only, and that’s to draw attention. Hence the massive crowd around a kit car in an obscure hall one year. No, it wasn’t cutting edge tech or a new Porsche; it was a naked woman draped only in fine chains, and photographed – with the car of course – from every conceivable angle. Did the assembled journos remember the vehicle’s brand? No idea – but it certainly got a lot of print space.

The Tokyo show is famous for the number of promo girls, and their quirky (but generally modest) dress. Also for the fact that they forget the car is the main event – and won’t get out of the way. I had it easy – they’re so used to focussing on guys with lenses, that I’d slip under the radar and get my pics when their attention was elsewhere.

It’s easier now. Some reveals come with real-world people; Ford’s Fiesta arrived downunder with students of both genders in jeans and tees dancing about a newspaper-clad car, while 2009’s recessionary atmosphere meant the Tokyo show was all but girlie free.

I’ll miss the fashion, but I won’t miss the off-colour comments from otherwise professional motor noters reviewing their pics on the flight home.

Read previous Girl TORQUE columns here.

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