Tom Fearon

Professional communicator in Canberra

Auto Show Stalls over Preteen Promo Girls

Nov. 19, 2012

Illustration: Peter Espina/GT

Illustration: Peter Espina/GT

By Tom Fearon

In case you missed it, the Chutian Automobile Cultural Festival kicked off Friday in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Like most auto shows, there were plenty of luxury sports cars on show alongside scantily-clad female models to get motorheads' engines running.

Unlike most auto shows, many of the young females were prepubescent girls wearing bikinis and knee-high boots. Scenes from the auto show, which include young girls striking suggestive poses against cars they would have ridden in baby capsules in only a few years earlier, have caused predictable uproar online about the sexualization of children.

It's fair to say no sound-minded automaker executive would want their company's latest vehicle associated with dolled-up, dressed-down girls fresh out of diapers who make tiara-sporting child beauty pageant winners seem mature and conservative. Call me a prude, but the fact such salesmanship is justified when the subject turns 18 hardly makes it any more respectful.

It's true that young girls like to play dress up, but such games belong in a children's world. Auto shows are the domain of adults, namely desperate men with high-resolution smartphones, auto junkies who have sniffed too many petrol fumes, and super-rich men on the verge of mid-life crises.

One factor in this case that can't be underestimated is that China's economic and social development has been, for want of a better term, in the fast lane over the past few decades. Auto shows in the country have this year resorted to extreme lengths to stand out from the international competition, which includes more than 100 such annual shows in North America and Europe.

The most recent example of this was at the Guiyang Auto Show in Guizhou Province, where earlier this month half-nude women gaped open-mouthed over a snake and crocodile - much to the delight of the photo-snapping crowd. In short, the whole spectacle was a reptile sex show with some expensive cars parked in the background. 

Earlier in May, the Beijing International Automotive Show set pulses racing when model Li Yingzhi donned a 100 million-yuan ($16-million) diamond-encrusted dress that showed more leg than a Las Vegas show chorus line.      

Yes, it's fair to say auto shows have come a long way over the past century.

At one of the world's first auto shows in Chicago in 1901, there were no glamorous models gesturing seductively beside vehicles that basically resembled baby carriages on steroids.

Cars such as the single cylinder De Dion Bouton, which packed a whopping 3 horsepower under the hood, spoke for themselves to an awe-struck public whose idea of a "set of wheels" at the time entailed a horse-drawn buggy.

Fast-forward 111 years to China and suddenly crowds are far tougher to impress at auto shows, particularly in second-tier cities eyeing one-upmanship over Beijing, a city replete with luxury sport cars.

Ironically, many of my expat friends denouncing the sickness of young girls being used at auto shows hail from the same crowd who moan about 6-year-old children being "too old" to take a whizz in public at the behest of their grandparent. I sympathize with both arguments.

Let kids be kids. Pre-teen girls in swimsuits belong on a beach with a bucket and spade in their hand - not an auto show.

See the original article here.