NAIAS 2015: Booth Models Step Beyond Eye Candy

The beautiful women standing alongside the cars at NAIAS 2015 aren't there just to look good. They're an important part of automaker's operation to inform would-be buyers.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

IMG_8387

There are reasons why automakers surround their cars with beautiful women during major auto shows — and their best reasons aren’t what you’re thinking.

Those models are out in force at NAIAS 2015, but you’ll also find them in Los Angeles, New York, Geneva, Paris and anywhere else car builders introduce their latest creations to the media and general public.

It’s fair to assume the ladies are on station for visual appeal — to draw eyes to the shiny new metal behind them. Often, in keeping with tradition, the more expensive or exclusive the car, the hotter the model holding court before it.

Science of Sales

There’s an unquestionable psychology of sexuality, prestige, desire and status at play here. After all, how many men buy a new car to impress the opposite sex? It may not be as simpleminded as, “I see that woman. I want that woman. If I buy this car, I’ll get that woman…” But, that’s not too far afield from the more base elements at play.

Related: NAIAS 2015: Porsche Adds Targa 4 GTS

Because of the obvious factor of sexual allure, there are those who object to the present of models at auto shows. The naysayers approach it from an aggressive pro-feminist position or as an anti-masculine one (with the latter being the sole domain of skinny jeans-wearing pseudo-intellectual boys who opt for elitism because they couldn’t pull of general masculinity if their timid lives depended on it). But, I digress with very long parenthetical phrases.

IMG_8385

However, there are factors at play in the selection of women for these auto shows that both the sex-obsessed and the uppity busybodies fail to grasp.

Field Work from the Model’s Floor

During my on-floor coverage of this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, I took some time to do what most reporters never do. I talked to the models standing vigilant guard near the new vehicles to find out how they feel about their jobs and what their overall duties are. It was a tough assignment, but somebody had to it — though it was entirely my idea in this case.

I made it clear to each woman I spoke with that I would not ask for or publish their names in case anything they said might endanger their gigs. Most auto show models originate from a tiny handful of agencies, so it’s too small a world to get away with revealing too much. I also promised not to reveal the automaker they were representing in case someone out there put the elements together to deduce identities.

Once that was out of the way, the models opened up about their low skirted, high heeled lives out in front of four wheels and an engine.

Well-Informed Hostesses

The first fact each put me straight on quickly was that they are not models. They are hostesses. They’re not standing there just to smile and be pretty. They’re on hand to welcome media and members of the public into the little convention hall world of the individual automaker.

There are be-suited men and slacks wearing executive women on hand at every automaker’s display. But, the automakers’ research says both men and women are more comfortable and more likely to approach an attractive young woman than anyone in a suit — no matter how intelligent, competent and qualified they might seem.

It might offend some, but the hard truth is attractive young women seem less intimidating and more approachable than any other point of contact people the automakers could stand front and center.

Understanding that, the automakers now prep the booth hostesses with at least basic knowledge on the cars displayed. Some are armed with tablets for reference or with publicity kits they can pass on to attendees.

“We have to know about all of the cars here,” one hostess told me. “We’re trained on them so we can answer questions from anyone who comes up to us. If they want more information or ask about something we’re not prepped on, we can welcome them back to the executives or engineering experts here who can answer them.”

While the model approach at shows like NAIAS 2015 might be unnecessary for the media — who should be comfortable chasing up to executives — the public finds approaching the ladies easier. And, since the auto show world is about selling cars once all the hype and spotlights fade, these models and hostesses the elitists dismiss as exploitative actually play an important part in an automaker’s business plan.

There are rumors that some car companies want to put young male models in suits alongside their would-be female counterparts. We’ll have to see if that happens and if it works as well as the current hostess system.