China is the world’s biggest car market, it has the world’s biggest car shows, and it suddenly developed the world’s biggest hang-up about pretty ladies. For years, they used to sex-up otherwise boring cars. No more. The auto fairs must do without the fair maidens, the models must remain dressed. “Attractive young women will no longer adorn cars at the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition in April,” the state-owned tabloid China Daily reports.
“Auto shows in other cities should also stop using models,” said Yang Xueliang, head of the public relations department of Zhejiang Geely. “Give a pure automobile show back to customers.” At past auto shows, his company, which also owns Sweden’s Volvo, competed lustily with other carmakers in the scantily clad department, this year, no more.
Fear not, the DailyKanban will bring you the lightly dressed car shows that the government banned.
“Scantily clad” has become a part of the Chinese language, but according to its government, it’s time to button up. Past Chinese auto shows looked a bit like the 1971 Earl’s Court Show in London, when girls took it all off. According to the new government edict, future Chinese car show will look like their Detroit counterparts, where a pant suit is risqué.
For a few years, the display of flesh next to Ferraris has been a matter of discussion in China. However, the discussion used to start only when the car show was pretty much over. The government kept face, the models could keep their clothes off. In 2012, Beijing’s Capital Ethics Development Office said that the lack of clothing on some models at the Beijing Auto Show had a “negative social impact.” It said so by the end of the show. The government could display its righteousness, organizers and car companies could display cars and skin, everybody was happy, and at the next show, the process repeated.
This time around, the discussion started months before the Shanghai car show this April, and they mean it. The Western disease of political correctness has arrived in China, the party has decreed that the party is over.
As a long-term visitor of both the Beijing and the Shanghai Auto Shows (they alter, on even years, it’s Beijing, on odd years, it’s Shanghai) I would like to take this sad opportunity for a look back at what will go down in history as the decade when an adolescent Chinese car industry discovered sex. It will be 5 years of Chinese car shows, compressed into three days at the DailyKanban.
The 2010 show in Beijing started subdued. This was pretty much the state of undress in most Chinese booths.
Even at some foreign displays, the women were shown in a domestic role.
A few booths down, first cases of “scantily clad.” This was media day, and in 2010, it was mostly reserved for the media. This would soon change.
I could never figure out what these ladies advertised. “Wosika.com” did not exist back then, and it doesn’t exist now. Back then, a dot.com “looked cool,” I was told, and often nobody bothered to even register the cool URL. This would also soon change.
2010 was not quite post-carmageddon. Chrysler was in limbo as far as China was concerned. It had walked away from its Beijing joint-venture with BAIC. BAIC made Jeeps. Chrysler showed an imported Jeep. Nobody knew what was going on.
This imported Dodge purred, because the lady leaning against it had the least amount of clothes at the show. I cornmered a media representative of Chrysler, and asked about their China plans. The lady fled.
At Cadillac, this was as far as one dared to go.
This display of identically dressed ladies in rigid pose, introduced at Infiniti, would become a hit at future shows. …Many makers enthusiastically ripped the idea off.
All in all, sex was still subdued at the 2010 Beijing show, so much that special bodyguards were needed to protect the rare treasure.
A year later, 2011 in Shanghai, what was lacking in quality was made up with quantity.
At the Chery booth, both the cars on display and the display itself were uninspired. Management tried to counter this with raw numbers of ladies, obviously taking cues from what used to be called “flower street” in China before order was restored.
The world’s largest automaker showed the world’s longest legs. Sakichi Toyoda approved.
Chinese car blogs, here auto-163.com, fielded whole armies of photographers with very long lenses.
Order was likewise maintained with a large show of manpower.
Then there were birds.
This kind of dance would trigger major wardrobe malfunctions in the West. In China, there was no danger of fall-out.
Red is the most popular color in China. In Detroit or Chicago, this picture would have triggered a shitstorm about nipplegate.
I believe this was a display for lean manufacturing.
To be continued! Saturday: Beijing 2012. Sunday: Shanghai 2013, Beijing 2014