Monday, January 25, 2010

Chrysler's booth babe backlash

While walking around Cobo Hall on the first public day of the Detroit Auto Show last week, I did a double take when I saw the Fiat Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep team. Stunning? Yes. Gorgeous? Yes. Amazing dresses? Yes.

Making my life incredibly fcuking difficult? Yes.

I came across one beautiful blond wearing a silver, low-cut Herve Leger bandage dress like a second skin. Total knockout. Totally taking our job back to 1962.

Of course I do not begrudge these women for being beautiful; we're all models here after all and must meet at least a minimum level of attractiveness. I was truly surprised to see her dressed the way she was on a public day; outfits like that are usually reserved for press and preview - cocktail wear, if you will. What really bugged me was that after I chatted with her for a bit, it became obvious that she was not there to talk about the car and was merely there as a photo op. And then my head exploded.

I did see a bevy of Italian fashion models milling about in business suits, so I figured they were the product specialists and had the info. I was wrong. I asked around a bit here and there and here's what I was told about the Fiat sitch...

Last year's Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep team was canned. Even the stunningly gorgeous ones. All of the incredibly knowledgeable ones. Each and every talented and experienced presenter now out of a job.

Fiat, being a European company, wanted a European feeling to their displays so they replaced the team with pure eye candy. Problem is, this isn't Europe. Here in the good ol' USA women buy 60% of new cars and 80% of us are involved, singly or jointly, in making car buying decisions. And while we like talking with attractive people (human nature being what it is) we're not all that interested in taking photos with beautifully coiffed, designer-clad LA models.

So anyway, last year's awesome team was replaced with these new European-esque babes, and that would have been fine, I suppose, if they had been equally qualified and trained because hey, sometimes you just need to shake things up a little, right?

But that's not exactly what happened. My source says the even the business suited brunettes don't know their cars and their presentations were mediocre at best. Source said that it was obvious they had little public speaking experience.

(I also don't understand why they would let the talents of Nicole, the blond in this video, go to waste - she says she was a Porsche product specialist last year and those girls knew their shizz. This year Fiat has her posing - nothing more.)

So how exactly does this fcuk up my entire world, you ask? Goody, let me explain it to you. Women like Margery Krevsky have worked long and hard for many, many years to create an environment in which men (most of you, anyway) and women (pretty much all of you now) actually trust a good looking woman to tell you about your favorite cars. When you have a bunch of scantily-clad, uninformed and inexperienced models in the same position as the rest of us product specialists, it eats away at that trust.

Plus, y'all try to grab my ass and put a telephoto lens on my boobs a lot more when there are babes in mini dresses nearby.

Anyway, Chrysler must have heard the rumblings because by the last weekend of the show the silver mini dresses were gone and replaced with capri pants and sleeveless white blouses.



This is, of course, merely a Band-Aid. Hopefully they will throw a product handbook at them in time for the next show. There's absolutely no reason why Fiat's crew can't retain their absolute gorgeousness, know their product inside out and give compelling presentations at the same time.


  1. If "in the good ol' USA women buy 60% of new cars and 80% of us are involved".

    Why then bother with good looking female product specialists? Shouldn't car manufacturers just hire some really attractive male product specialists to attract and entertain the real desicion makers?

  2. Anon, because a lot of women feel more comfortable talking to another woman. We have residual feelings of resentment over being cheated by male sales associates down at the dealership. But there actually are a lot of guys working as product specialists, too.

  3. Great point. While there's a little bit of irony in the fact that you - a person who makes their living because of their beauty - have a problem with the concept of people being hired only because of their looks, I applaud your points about women's role in the U.S. auto market.

    I would go one step further and say that, based on my experience, women directly influence 80% of car purchases in the USA. It's very rare that a man completely makes a purchase on his own. Most men (myself included) want to either impress or seek the approval of the women.

  4. I can understand the sense of cheapening the profession, but there's always another way to look at these things. In the current climate the auto industry has had to shift from being merely competitive to absolutely cut-throat. The publicity moves offer not only a barometer as to the motivations of the company and their perception of their customers (in Chrysler's case, people who are prepared to buy a dull car because it was sold to them by a sophisticated model) but also create the potential for genuine professionals to stand out from the crowd.

    We all understand that visual trends come and go, along with the models hired to communicate the underlying values, and those models are fully aware of that; it's not their job to show commitment to a company that has only hired them as the face of a fleeting moment, and frankly I don't blame them for not trying.

    Female motoring writers like Samantha Stevens Margery Krevsky and Penny Mallory have demonstrated with devastating effectiveness that wit, intelligence and communication skills are where the real power lies, and that if your focus is on information before image then you have nothing to fear from the fashionistas.

  5. Not to question your sources, but a very good friend of mine has been a product specialist for Chrysler for the last 3 years, including this last Detroit auto show. She obviously wasn't laid off. While she's certainly a lovely woman, she wasn't in a silver, designer dress - just a dark business suit.

  6. Max - Is she the only holdover? Does she happen to be tall and brunette a la an Italian runway model? I ask because my source was telling me specifically about what happened to her friends on last year's team. Perhaps the majority of them who didn't meet the new look were let go, and their replacements were the ones I speak of among this year's group?

  7. DYCWTC,

    I'm guessing that during the media preview you're busy working and don't get a chance to really get around the show. The Chrysler models were dressed overtly sexually, minidresses, not evening gowns. At CT&T, the Korean EV maker, the models there were dressed more appropriately for SEMA than a major OEM auto show.

    BTW, are you working the Washington or Chicago shows?

  8. I just got back from the Washington show and you weren't kidding. The models on the Chrysler platforms were gorgeous and dressed to stun, but not very knowlegeable. The twins on the Fiat turntable effectively knew nothing about the car, but they were friendly and professional. Still, when another guy tossed them a question about where the car was built and they ventured the answer "Italy," (he knew the answer was Poland and, correctly, expected them to get it wrong) I found myself defending them. They clearly weren't given product information or required to learn it. Not really their fault, but it is too bad and I can understand why it would be irritating to you. The Cadillac Converj concept presenter was a real contrast. She plainly knew her stuff, and that car was was only a concept. The Fiat 500 has been in production in Europe for a couple of years. She knew that the interior was imitation suede. She knew that the camera system replacing the mirrors would not make it to production because of federal requirements, and she knew that if they did build it, it would actually be a dull car to drive, because it was basically Chevy Volt guts under the sleek body. If I were to rank all of the presenters from all teams by appearance, she would easily make the top 5 on that count, too. It would really be a shame if the other companies followed Chrysler's example.

  9. Well- the blond is beautiful, but if she knows nothing of the car I don't think it will help her much. Did she at least know a few drivers jokes? I guess not :) Good to know there are still professional out there!

  10. How does a guy successfully pick up a girl at one of these shows? I don't care about the car I will never be able to afford, I want to take a girl out who is far away from home who wants a good time. Do you give out your real names? How do I know if you are serious when you give compliments? Ok, so you have my email and zip code....are you done with me now or do you actually think I'm cute?


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