It’s an old adage of the Bangkok Motor Show that as many visitors go to see the girls as the cars, indeed it’s an adage that’s also applied to Thai motorsport. There’s quite a lot of truth in the saying too.
More importantly, the both the show organisers and the booth vendors adhere to this belief and they don’t take any chances as they chase footfall and eyeballs – and that means the halls are stuffed full of models, or “pretties” as they are known as here.
On press day if your car has a model draped over it you are much more likely to get into print the next day than if it doesn’t – although in the case of this year’s show stopper, the stunning Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro, which was flown straight over here from its Geneva world debut, the rule was somewhat shattered as one simply doesn’t want any girls in the way as you savour the lines of Adrian Newey’s first shot at a road car, one that the legendary aerodynamicist has created without making any compromises along the way.
Or perhaps that was just him – maybe he haven’t been in Thailand quite long enough to become totally sucked into the way of thinking.
After the media’s equipment is packed away and they depart it’s time for the public to arrive and the amateur photographers descend in hordes as the brightly lit booths with their shiny new cars and incessantly smiling models make for a ready-made studio all at no more than the cost of the 100 baht entrance fee.
In Thailand a photographer – either professional or amateur – is judged on the amount of equipment he has strapped around his waist, although it must be admitted that we are still a long way off Japanese motor show standards.
It means that many of the amateur photographers that descend on the halls are so tooled up for action that they could give your average ‘special forces’ operative a good run for his money. In fact, some of the softbox umbrellas being lugged around the halls could keep an entire football team dry in a heavy rain shower and must really eat up time in the setup phase. One has to occasionally duck past a photographer in order to avoid losing an eye.
It’s also said in motorsport that the closer to the back of the grid that you are, the more flesh your models expose – and that saying can be applied equally to the Motor Show. The super luxury brands go for slim and tall, the mainstream brands go for as smart and as sexy as they can get without rocking the conservative buyers’ boats, while around the edges of the halls on the trade and tuning booths it’s all about cleavage and enhancements.
Cheap and cheerful Chinese brand MG stood out this week for its fusion of high-end models and low-end cars. As a relatively new brand here that’s chasing an image upgrade, it’s a time-honoured marketing tactic.
Usually the grey importers provide the show’s token ‘controversy’ as they roll out girls in outfits that get the ‘old’ media worked up into an indignant froth, all the while of course printing plenty of photos so their readers can see very clearly what they are getting upset about.
It’s win-win for everyone: the media gets to print the kind of photos it feels it needs an excuse to print and the knock on is that more people will come through the doors while the grey importers, which usually struggle to get noticed at the show despite rolling out big booths, get themselves into print.
This year though the importers are few and far between and there hasn’t been much in the way of controversy, in fact, events of recent years have seen most people playing it much safer than used to be the case.
The ‘crème de la crème’ are the “Miss Motor Show” finalists, who hunt the halls in a pack. Here height is everything and as a 186 cm high foreigner it’s one of the few times at the Motor Show that he can feel a little claustrophobic.
The Miss Motor Show contest has its own long-standing place in the pantheon of the event with a standalone website and social media platforms, the girls introduced to the media ahead of the show as the buzz kicks up and the finals attracting an awful lot of attention.
However, for Miss Motor Show it’s also a case of hitting the generic button and without closer examination it could well appear that the show’s organiser has a successful sci-fi style cloning programme underway in a basement someplace.
Finally, as the Motor Show has transitioned over the last decade from an international show full of exotic showcars and elaborate booths into a nationally-focused selling free for all, the mainstream carmakers now field huge sales teams on their booths and this has brought into the mix an armada of smart, sophisticated, business-like and (of course) high heeled salesgirls – and to be honest many of them can give the pukka models a pretty good run for their money