Expect to see both men and women ready to inform visitors.
In the era of the worldwide #MeToo movement that’s fighting sexual harassment, the objectification of women solely for the fancy of men in the automotive industry is facing stiff criticism. Earlier this year, Formula 1 made the announcement it would no longer use grid girls during its race events. Instead, kids will take center stage on the starting grid. Now, several automakers are cutting back or eliminating the use of booth girls at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.
“Times have changed,” said Sara Jenkins, a Switzerland-based spokeswoman for Nissan, to Bloomberg, which stopped hiring fashion models for shows last year. “It makes more sense to use product specialists because we’re selling cars.”
Toyota is also eliminating models from its stand at Geneva. Alfa Romeo, Jeep, and Maserati will feature both men and women in more modest apparel than previous years as parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is concerned about criticism from the #MeToo movement, according to Bloomberg.
Instead of using skin to draw eyes, several automakers will employ both men and women as spokespeople for the brand, tasked with informing show visitors about the products on display. Carmakers like Peugeot and Renault are taking this approach.
“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,” PSA Group spokesman Pierre-Oliver Salmon said in an email to Bloomberg with a #nocarbabes hashtag attached. “PSA Group won’t convey a degrading image of anyone, neither of women or men.”
Lamborghini is also working to train both men and women for this year’s Geneva Motor Show to explain the vehicle’s features. Pirelli, known for its use of models and its salacious calendars, is also changing its approach this year. During press days, models will dress in black pantsuits, according to a company spokeswoman.
Changing demographics in the car-buying are also feeding the changing attitudes toward the objectification of women in the automotive industry. More women across Europe are buying cars. In the U.K., the number of women owning cars jumped 66 percent from 2006 to 2016, which is nearly triple the rise of men. In Europe’s biggest car market, Germany, women buy about a third of all new vehicles.