We were gathered here yesterday, on this sorrowful occasion, to say goodbye to the sadly departed scantily clad models at Chinese car shows. After taking away the wine and wife from karaoke bars around the country, after shutting down a whole city, China’s capital of vice, Chinese authorities now have their sights set on automakers who interpret the “reveal” part of auto shows to liberally.
The Shanghai Auto Show 2015 (April 20-29) will be a wholesome family affair, and I won’t be going. Instead, and with a tear in my eye, I will look back at the times when a Chinese auto show still was worth visiting.
2012 was a momentous year for Chinese car shows. It was the first year when I was a true visitor. After living (it up) in Beijing for eight years, I had fled the thick smog, and moved the Shenzhen. (The air was better, but the only interesting part of Shenzhen was Hong Kong.) 2012 also was then year when the reveal part of Chinese car shows was in full bloom. But first, we had to get there.
This picture was taken at 8:10 am on the alleged Airport Express road in Beijing. It was a Monday morning, and at that time rush hour traffic usually collapses in the other direction, into town. This Monday, it was different. Close to 100,000 alleged members of the media were clogging all streets to the China International Exhibition Center (New Venue) out by the airport. It was stop, and no go.
An hour later, we had moved maybe 3 car lengths, my mobile rang. It was Rachel Konrad, the newly minted flackette of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. “Have the press conferences been re-scheduled?” Rachel inquired. “Why should they?” I asked back. “Nobody is here!” Rachel exclaimed. “The place is empty.” They were all where I was, stuck on the airport road.
I was among the first to arrive, but only by abandoning a profusely swearing taxi driver, and with the help of this lady. I also gave her $50. She knew what she was worth on that Monday.
One of the first press conferences of a major auto show traditionally is by Volkswagen. In 2012, most seats were empty. Here, first victims of the vehicular collapse arrive an hour later. Volkswagen does not rent a booth, they rent a whole exhibition hall for their panoply of brands. The lighting is not photoshopped. It’s a typical Beijing morning.
Were there girls? Boy, were there ever. At SEAT, they served girls on a stick.
CEOs and Chairmen of all major automakers congregated in Beijing, and there was a welcoming committee for everyone.
“The cars were the main attraction at the press opening of the Beijing International Automotive show,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Chester Dawson with a keen eye for details, “but most automakers burnished their sheet metal with an array of accompanying human models–mostly female and mostly Chinese–in varying states of dress.” Follow the WSJ link for the salacious parts, we show you a display of traditional Chinese clothing.
Chinese minorities sent their ambassadors to the Beijing Auto Show. If you have lived in China for a while, you can pinpoint most of the minorities right away.
More minorities: red hair. Is it real? Is anything in China?
The “2012 Beijing Auto Show Turned into International Fashion Show,” says a video-report, and they were right.
Even Toyota got with the program. The entrance to their VIP section took design cues from upscale Chinese massage parlors.
Behind the scenes. A few quick repairs, and back into the fray!
These ladies were very popular in Beijing, but raised an ungodly shitstorm on TTAC. It took me a while to realize what I had gotten into. It was an election year, and the blue part of the readership was on the lookout for any perceived slight of their candidate. How could I have missed it: Blue dress, floppy ears. In China, we were oblivious.
At the Buick booth, GM remained chaste, diversity was maintained .
But where is the promised porn, you ask? Here it is, the utterly obscene Red Flag by First Auto Works, a car that made its appearance at many auto shows from here on out, and it never was produced in earnest.
The year 2012 was an inflection point of the Chinese auto industry. If you went to Beijing, you could see where this huge market was going. Or not. Displaying great vision for China’s future, these two gentlemen demonstrated how Chinese car shows would look only three years later. It’s not that the Chinese don’t like sex. They love it, the more, the merrier, after 10 years on the ground, I could not help noticing. But they also want to catch up with the West.
Don’t worry, there will be some ladies at future car shows. Just not as many as in 2012.