Theme : Glamour – It’s Showtime!

Motor Shows – A Litany Of Broken Promises

Auto China 2010 - image Feng Li/Getty Images
Auto China 2010 – image Feng Li/Getty Images

I’ve not been to a Motor Show for ages. I went to a few many years ago, when they were at Earls Court each Autumn. All I got was a pain in my chest and a load of brochures. I don’t miss them. Cars just seem different at shows. The lights show up everything, so they are polished relentlessly. They look perfect, and that’s probably why I don’t want to see them under such circumstances.

Moskvich Estate image Evening Standard/Getty Images
The advantages of the Moskvich’s split tailgate are revealed – image Evening Standard/Getty Images

Press day at Earls Court was always the chance for manufacturers to make a splash. Possibly you had a lot of glitzy new product and a well-lubricated press machine but, if you didn’t, you could revert to the old girls ‘n cars trick. Journalists and their readers were suckers for this. Starting off with models in the guise of society ladies posing next to the vehicle, it reached a nadir in the early 70s, with TVRs notorious topless extravaganzas.

Strangely, as we start the approach to the third decade of the 21st Century, this still goes on. Admittedly, the really cheesy stuff occurs mostly at fringe events, but mainstream shows can still be relied upon to deliver a fair number of sultry ladies posing by the cars. As in everything else, the motor industry is slow to change – you would think, say, that a Mercedes S Class could be accompanied at a show by a couple of chiselled looking guys in expensive suits in order to conjure the right image. But that would be too gay, right? And there you go – the women in smart evening dresses aren’t really there to represent the client base – they are there to represent something far more base.

S ClLass automobilereviews-com
OK Mercedes sometimes do use male models – image automobilereviews.com

Some people try to change things. Before the 2013 Brussels show, Joelle Milquet, Belgium’s Equal Opportunities Minister, caused the organisers to request that “all models would be wearing appropriate dresses” and, from the photo, it seems that she had a result of some sort.

Brussels Show 2013 - image autocarbazar.com
Brussels Show 2013 – image autocarbazar.com

The other empty invitation is the Showcar. I’ve expressed my frustration before regarding these devices that hint at a brave future that the manufacturer has no intention of visiting. I can’t decide which is worst – the device that offers impossible technology that the manufacturer has neither the knowledge nor the will to pursue, or the car that tantalisingly hints at something that could actually exist, but that the manufacturer is too mean or timid to ever put into production.

I.DE.A ERA Geneva 2009 : Believe me, it's not going to happen - any of it!
I.DE.A ERA Geneva 2009 : Believe me, it’s not going to happen – any of it!

I’d qualify the above by saying that my dislike of showcars is mainly directed at large companies, who just use an exciting looking proposal as a come-on, in the expectation that it will deflect from the sheer ordinariness of everything in their everyday range – Peugeot were particularly prone to this a few years ago. But, for a small company, anxious to get noticed, hinting at a brave, new and never-to-be-realised future is maybe excusable; better certainly than a gaggle of topless models, at least if you aren’t Dany Bahar.

30 thoughts on “Theme : Glamour – It’s Showtime!”

  1. I try to go to at least one or two shows every year. Frankfurt and Paris alternate every two years and Geneva yearly. Last year I also managed Istanbul’s first motor show (which was better than expected). That the show cars are vapourware doesn’t bother me at all. They are about ideas and to be bullish about your brand.

    But to me there is no better to way to compare which cars’ buttons click (only Audi have ALL their buttons click the exact same way), which have terrible ergonomics or which have little Easter Eggs to explore. And all that *without* a salesman breathing down your neck. I *never* go and look at cars at dealers for that very reason.

  2. I went to Geneva occasionally but didn’t enjoy it too much. Four hours in an overcrowded train for one way, and I’ve hardly ever had more terrible food than I had there. The last time was in 2005 – the C6 was presented there.

    1. Geneva was the one I was closest to going to. It was a huge trip and in the end the cost and time meant I stayed at home. I would still like to go as I like Geneva and I know a great restaurant selling veal face with caper sauce.

    2. “veal face with caper sauce”

      I take it you mean “tête de veau, sauce gribiche” – or a variation thereof?

    3. It sounds nicer like that. The sauce had another name that eludes me. I have even made this stuff myself: capers, mustard, parsley, shallots and pepper were among the ingredients. It´s very nice indeed. I must do it again. It goes will pork too.

    4. Cervelles in French, if am not mistaken. No thanks. Lungs and brains and glands are a no-no. I will eat liver, kidney and sweatbreads (you don´t see them much around though). I quite like some of the off-beat cuts of meat. My local butcher sells pigs cheeks which are very good when cooked slowly with root vegetables. My death row meal would be sauteed liver with slow-cooked onions and bacon, fried potatoes (fried on beef fat) and a big salad. I´d have to cook it myself though. People ruin liver by using excessive heat. It turns it to leather.

    5. Sweetbreads are glands. And if you like sweetbreads you should like brains – the taste and texture are very similar. They are the two key criteria, and the reason why I draw a line at heart and lungs, which are very unusual on both fronts (but then again, it’s all about cooking as you said, and maybe I never had them cooked properly).
      By the same token I don’t think anyone would struggle with pig cheeks – it is just meat (i.e. flesh or muscle) after all and only the name would make some people wince.
      Liver has to be pink inside – always.

    6. Brains are lovely. It used to be a treat when I was a kid – I remember how they were displayed in small square plastic containers on the market stalls and it never put me off. But that was back home and I don’t remember ever seeing them in the UK (probably banned from sell here since the mad cow crisis).

    7. I remember eating brains in France as a kid. They were delicious, with a distinctive melt-in-mouth texture. But I agree that there is something odd about eating parts of the sensory system. I’ve always found tongue unnatural for that reason – as well as the fact that it’s disgusting anyway.

  3. The easiest show from London is Paris of course. But it is not the best show. Frankfurt is the best and biggest. So if you long to do one show go there – the Mercedes hall is a destination in itself.

    Geneva is very easy as the motor show is basically IN the airport terminal (well right next door). You land and walk over to do the show and could in theory fly back the same day – though airline ticket prices make that less favourable.

    I’ve done the Geneva Tourist Board combo package many times. Hotel, breakfast and motor show ticket in one neat affordable package. It includes a free Geneva city tour too – should be inclined to go look at the most monstrously ugly concrete city in all of Western Europe. I just do the hammam in the harbour opposite the big fountain. A naked swim in 2 degree Lake Geneva, 100m from the crossing ferries, is a fun way to end a trip there. 🙂

  4. I take Johann’s point and possibly my impressions of Motor Shows were fixed long ago, when I was a callow youth and was chased away from any car I sat in for more than 20 seconds. Now I’m older, I look more like a proper punter and I’ve actually found many showroom people are OK to leave you alone whilst you fiddle around. But obviously if you want all the options in one arena you have no choice but to go to a motorshow.

    I did actually go to a motorhome and caravan show at the NEC last October. I found that the crowds and queues made it hard to concentrate on all those little details that you want to check out, so you come away thinking about all the things you missed. Another aspect of shows is that it forcibly dispels the illusion that one’s choice in vehicles is as special as it feels. Of course, I realise that the world is full of versions of me, all making the same decision for the same reason, but it’s not nice to have to confront the fact. But at least I don’t get the pain in my chest any more.

    1. I have to admit to owning a caravan (for the last 18 months) and that I have never had the inclination to got to the NEC and look at the caravans there. 🙂 Do you own a caravan then Sean?

    2. Johann. I assume you’ve either forgotten our previous discussions, or are just willfully trying to provoke me in public!

      No, I don’t own a caravan, but I have had opportunities to study the rear design of many when I’ve been stuck dawdling behind them in my normally fleet motorhome.

  5. I went to the Paris show twice in the 90’s. Highlights include seeing the Audi TT concept in the metal (didn’t think it would have much sales potential at the time, or indeed that it would ever go into production), and spending a bit of time talking to a guy from 3-wheeler specialist Grinnall
    http://www.grinnallcars.com/

  6. Sam: Isn´t it what you´re used to, foodwise. Brains weren´t part of the Irish “cuisine”. Black pudding was and still is and I will eat that along with tongue. I can see why people don´t want to eat either of those though. Tongue is great on a sandwich and black pudding makes a super breakfast component when one is walking in the country. I would not touch the stuff offered in cafes nor the stodge sold by mass producers. It has to be from a butcher. Also: white pudding (which may contain lungs, as it happens).

    1. ‘Fromage de tete’ or ‘head cheese’ are equally bad names for a wonderful product. But at least you can call it ‘brawn’ instead. Am I right to assume that it makes people feel less squeamish?

      As for andouillette, a good one should have a good mix of varied textures, but I can see some bits may be off-putting. But generally it’s the strong flavour that the main hurdle – my grand-father (who was a former butcher, born at the turn of the 20th century) used to say it had to taste a bit of sh*t or there was no point…

      With apologies to those who are catching up with comments over lunch.

    2. Goodness, your grandfather doesn´t mince words. It reminds me of the bit in Ulysses where Leopold Bloom is encountering the distinctive taste of kidneys. Personally I´d say weren´t rinsed enough if you can taste anything “off”.

    3. I knew someone who swore she found an eyelash in a piece of fromage de tete. Brawn is an equally inelegant name. Still it is a no-nonsense product, so they’re honest names.

      Your grandfather is right, in essence. Andouillette should have a robust flavour, It’s just that the structure of the one I encountered last year was too robust. At least it was for my partner, who I cooked it for.

    4. Richard – nothing ‘off’ in this case, just something closer to the natural taste (i.e. not overly washed or even bleached).
      And please stop messing with the replies in the comment section. How did you manage to squeeze your comment above Sean’s anyway?

    5. Actually I think it’s a WordPress glitch Laurent. A few weeks ago, my replies kept ending up above the people I was replying to. I don’t know quite why.

  7. Some andouillettes can be a bit coarse. They are good with mustard which can conceal the contents. It´s been years since I ate them. I just don´t get to France very much. I hope it´s still alright. I was there in 2004 and have not got back since then apart from skims to Calais.

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