WITH THE CAR MARKET
tanking both here and worldwide, it took some doing for visiting and local auto industry execs to put on a brave face at the Johannesburg International Motor Show. They mostly managed, although it wasn’t always their own faces or models that did the trick. (See a better example of a brave face and fresh model below.)
Two years ago, in terms of pageantry, Volkswagen’s Seat marque won hands down. Dancers in fire-retardant racing suits stripped down to party gear to the tune of Smack My Bitch Up. How prophetic was that choice of music. I’m certain when VW pulled the plug on Seat South Africa a few months ago, words to that effect reverberated around its Uitenhage HQ.
This year the award for most surreal performance must go to CAM, importers of mostly dirt-cheap bakkies from China. Three girls appeared out of nowhere, bumped and ground around a sports car and then promptly exited right. That was it. What the vehicle was or whether it will ever go on sale here will remain a mystery. Some of the Chinese importers are known for not having great service and support, but when the wheels come off your CAM are you supposed to swap it for the three dancing ponies? (Hell, yeah!)
Opposite CAM, GWM had no models in skimpy clothes but enough drinks to give you beer goggles. In contrast to CAM’s WTF, the Hong-Kong listed and biggest private manufacturer in China flew in a senior exec to address the press, showed off a R600 000 limo and an up and running electric vehicle.
Germans love power. And kinkiness, I thought as I obeyed Mercedes-Benz’s instruction to put on my black eye mask. It was for the unveiling of a 1 000Nm monster called the SL 65 AMG Black Edition. Orders for 14 of them have already been taken in SA, out of the total of 350 that will be built. For the lucky few who ordered before the rand’s wobble, it cost R3,9m. Now you have to pay R4,2m. No wonder Merc has taken over the sponsorship of the Black Management Forum.
Audi used to sponsor the BMF but is now putting its money on celebrity endorsements. I don’t necessarily know the starlets’ names, but I recognised some of their features. Faces, I mean faces. Swimsuit models, not in swimsuits, but all-white dresses, unveiled an avalanche of new, allblack cars to the tune of (I’m in Love with a) Strict Machine. I was afraid if the gyrating went on for too long someone would shout: “Show us your TTS!” ( That’s the new sports version of the Audi TT, in case you were wondering.)
Next door, BMW (like Merc) let the cars speak for themselves, although it was over the siren of a car alarm at a nearby stand. History repeated itself when two years ago a malfunctioning mike also sabotaged the Beemer presentation. The BM speakers simply took it in their stride, just like the average M3 driver would when you cut in front of him on the M1.