You will never see videos like the one below ever again…enjoy.
Earlier this month we reported that amid the brave new world of sexual harassment lawsuits, #MeToo, social justice warriors, consent forms and rage over the “patriarchy,” Formula 1 and its FAI ruling body has decided to ban the use of promotional models, known as “grid girls,” from its events because they don’t “resonate with [the] brand values [of F1] and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.”
Now, the allegedly “demeaning” practice of showcasing scantily-clad women at testosterone-filled events, is spilling out out from the race track and hitting your local auto show.
According to Bloomberg, whereas one year ago two blondes in skintight silver mini dresses and stiletto heels would greet onlookers at Ssangyong Motor’s display at the Geneva car show, when the annual event reopens this week, the South Korean manufacturer’s “booth babes” – as they are known in the industry – will be gone, replaced by male and female models dressed in boring sportswear to promote its line up of pick-ups and cars.
Eliminating women as display props isn’t new for some carmakers like French Peugeot maker PSA Group. “Visitors to the Geneva auto show will be welcomed on the PSA booth by male and female hosts whose mission will be to inform them,” spokesman Pierre-Oliver Salmon said in an email with a #nocarbabes hashtag attached.
“PSA Group won’t convey a degrading image of anyone, neither of women or men.”
Ah yes, the prudish French.
To almost everyone else, however, it’s a radical departure.
In bowing to the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, the suddenly prudish South Korean car maker is not alone: larger automakers including Toyota and Nissan Motor Co. have also said they will cut back on the coquetry in Geneva, marking a potential sea change for an industry that has long pandered to male customers by using attractive women to sell cars.
“Times have changed,” Sara Jenkins, a Switzerland-based spokeswoman for Nissan which stopped hiring fashion models for shows last year, told Bloomberg. “It makes more sense to use product specialists because we’re selling cars.”
Some carmakers such as Lexus, fearing a backlash, said it’s dropping models altogether at the Swiss event, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is said to have canceled contracts with several female models over concern about being criticized on #MeToo. The maker of the Maserati, Jeep and Alfa Romeos will instead feature men as well as women in less flesh-exposing garb than in previous years.
This is in sharp contrast with 2017, when Alfa Romeo’s display had women in little black dresses hovering around its Stelvio crossover.
Nearby, a brunette with a beehive hairdo and a bottom-grazing sixties-style dress kicked up her red heels next to a Fiat 500. At Lexus, a woman in an off-the-shoulder burgundy gown was stationed beside one of its sedans.
Why this dramatic change in what been decades of conventional auto show marketing strategy?
According to Bloomberg, the transformation by the biggest players shows the ripple effect the #MeToo movement is having on industries far from its Hollywood roots.
The growing backlash has also prompted several European sports events to ditch hostesses working on the sidelines of male-dominated competitions.
Indeed, as we reported previously, Formula One said it was dropping the hiring of “grid girls,” branding the women in skimpy clothes at odds with modern society.
In the auto industry, the changing customer base is also feeding the trend. The number of women owning cars in the U.K. jumped 66% in the decade through 2016, official figures show, almost triple the rise in for men. In Germany, Europe’s biggest car market, women buy about a third of all new vehicles and in France 37 percent.
Meanwhile, the blowback against yet another formerly male-dominated industry means dramatic changes are afoot.
Lamborghini, the sports car brand owned by Volkswagen AG, said it quit draping women around its Huracans about two years ago and is busy training male and female hosts to explain the vehicle’s features at this year’s Geneva event
Even Pirelli & C. Spa, the Italian tire-maker famed for its sexy calendars, has modified its approach. Its 2018 stand will have models in black pant suits during press days, rather than the skimpy dresses of 2016, a spokeswoman said.
So, for the memories, a catalog of the 80 sexiest Pirelli calendar girls can be found after clicking on the image below.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.