Korean auto show model
Reuters
A model poses next to a Mercedes Benz's SLR McLaren at the 2005 Seoul Motor Show. South Korean automakers plan to cut down on the number of scantily clad models at the car show, hoping people will look at the cars instead.
By Brian Tracey Associate editor
msnbc.com
COMMENTARY

Auto shows are great place to look over the models. Not just the vehicular kind, but also the human types, most often attractive females acting as the car's ultimate accessory.

Now a Asian car confab thinks the lovely ladies are like potholes on the road to higher sales.

South Korean carmakers plan to cut down on the number of scantily clad models at the Seoul Motor Show, hoping people will look at the cars instead.

The show, which starts next month, usually attracts thousands of camera-wielding men snapping pictures of young women models in revealing costumes whose images quickly make their way to Web sites in the world's most-wired country.

"We would rather have the spectators' attention on our cars than the attractive ladies," said Hyundai Motor Company spokesman Jake Jang.

Hyundai, the world's sixth-largest car maker, will hire fewer models for the event. Its affiliate Kia will do the same.

Renault Samsung Motors, starting last year, changed the attire of its models from miniskirts to more modest business suits and gave them handheld computers to help answer questions, a company official said.

"When we look at motor shows overseas, the foreign brands did not have models with provocative clothing," the official said. "It only seems to commercialize women and we want the car to shine, not the women."

We applaud this enlightened thinking, but if fewer cars move off dealers' lots, we're guessing the pulchritudinous pitch-people will go back into high gear.

Not-so-bad ideas

  • Here's some more wacky auto news: Nissan, based in the country that gave us the exceedingly adorable Hello Kitty, has unveiled the "cute car."

The Nissan Pino is a toylike minicar just 11 feet long with star-stamped upholstery, sparkly-snowflake hubcaps, and a hook for a handbag. Aimed at cute-obsessed young women, the Pino also can be equipped with accessories that include pink bear-shaped cushions, seat covers with hearts, a CD case that looks like fat red lips, and a colorful cover for a tissue box. Exterior colors include pink (of course) and "milk tea beige."

In most countries, experts tend to advise against making autos pink or adding other "cute" features to appeal to female drivers partly because that may smack of sexism and turn off women — except in Japan where the culture of cute is so prevalent grown men aren't embarrassed about dangling little mascots from their cell phones.

Nissan marketing manager Miwa Ishii says one goal for Pino is to court young drivers to the Nissan brand with hopes they'll move on to buy more expensive models in the future.

"Rather than talk about the features of a minicar, we thought it's better to talk about how cute it is," she said. "It's a new model. We're starting from zero to build public awareness about it."

Girls, start your cute engines.

  • Here's the ultimate bathroom extravagance: Portugal's Renova, one of Europe's biggest producers of household paper products, has put a diamond-encrusted toilet paper holder on sale for $132,000, the company said.

    According to Egypt's Middle East Times, the one-of-a-kind gold-plated box was made entirely by hand by traditional jewelers in Lisbon who encrusted its logo plate with 148 diamonds to mark the worldwide sale of 1 million rolls of the Renova's novelty black toilet paper.

    Whoever buys the luxury toilet paper holder will receive one roll the specialty toilet paper per day for the rest of their lives.

    We're just glad they didn't put diamonds on the toilet paper too.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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