18 October 2019
BYD's first plug-in hybrid SUV Tang was shown off at the Shenzhen Auto Show with models performing a traditional Chinese dance. Photo: Xinhua
BYD's first plug-in hybrid SUV Tang was shown off at the Shenzhen Auto Show with models performing a traditional Chinese dance. Photo: Xinhua

China ‘car models’ find a better way to strut their stuff

Auto expos in China had in recent years turned into Vegas-style showbiz events as companies deployed scantily-clad female models to draw people to the exhibition booths.

Draping themselves over the bonnets and striking seductive poses, the “car models” had become a talking point in society and some lucky girls even won a lot of fame and fortune.

But that came to an end this year as Chinese authorities felt that things were getting out of hand and decided to clamp down on the “vulgar culture”. 

In April, the Shanghai Auto Show did not feature any skimpily dressed models, depriving the event of its usual quota of glamour.

Officials said it will help the public focus on the cars on display, rather than the models of the two-legged variety. 

Many youth and middle-aged men were dismayed by the government’s move.

But what was interesting was that even many women slammed the new restrictions. 

A ban on “car models” would mean loss of opportunities and jobs for many young girls seeking to move up in society, they said.

In previous years, an assignment at the Shanghai Auto Show — one of the three big car shows in China — proved to be the chance of a life time for several girls. Now, the window had been shut. 

About 20,000 new models debut in China each year and only 10 percent go on to work as top models, NHK’s Asia Insight program pointed out recently.

A gig at a prominent auto show boosts the chances of the girls getting noticed by talent scouts from ad agencies, apart from paying off handsomely in terms of fees for the event.

Some models were said to have bagged as much as US$6,000 for just a few days of work at Chinese auto shows in the past.

Faced with criticism and an intense debate over the tightened regulations, authorities have softened their stance in recent weeks. 

In June, the organizer of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Macao International Auto Show gave a serious thought to the issue of “car models”, weighing the pros and cons.

In the end, after much internal debate, a decision was made to strike a balance between observing the government policy and boosting the trade show’s appeal.

The Shenzhen Auto Show decided to keep the car girls, but imposed some new rules.

Among the requirements was a clause that the uniforms/dresses to be used by the models have to be pre-approved by authorities.

Models were also required to submit their resumes so that background checks could be done on them. In other measures, it was decreed that the models should not wield any “vulgar” objects or strike unseemly poses.

Car firms that violate the rules will be barred from joining future trade shows.

Models have welcomed the rules, with some pointing out that regulation would be good as it can check unhealthy practices.

As things turned out, the Shenzhen Car Show last month has proved to be a success, with new routines from the models projecting a smart and clean image.

Organizers have established a template that is attractive to visitors while at the same time staying on the right side of the government guidelines.

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EJ Insight writer