Car sales are in the tank, and two of the Detroit Three automakers — General Motors Corp. and Chrysler — are teetering on the brink of collapse.
But that won't stop hundreds of thousands of people from flocking to Detroit this weekend — as they do every year — for the North American International Auto Show.
One group of people getting ready for the big event is the professional auto show models, the women who use their talents — and their looks — to make cars on the display seem much more appealing.
With the evolution of women's rights, there's been a natural progression of how women show off the autos, according to Margery Krevsky, who runs Productions Plus talent agency in Michigan and has been selecting and training auto show models for years.
Krevsky also has a new book, Sirens of Chrome, which depicts models vamping across cars since the early 1900s. The book shows women swimming in the bed of a dump truck filled with water, a model dressed as a mermaid on the hood of a Plymouth Barracuda, even BMW model Nell Theobald posing with a 225-pound lion in 1966.
"It was going along very nicely and the lion was a very bad kitty cause he all of a sudden sunk his jaws into her thigh," Krevsky tells NPR's Michele Norris. "Fortunately the handlers removed the jaws of the lion from her thigh, and from that moment forward you do not see many wild animals at press conferences anymore."
When Krevsky entered the business in the mid-1980s, she says, she saw that women could play a bigger role than eye candy.
"Actually I had friends and models that worked for my company that did the auto show and I would go to see them and I would ask them questions about the car, and they would say, 'Oh, I'm not allowed to talk about the car, but I do know about it,' " Krevsky says. "And so I presented to several automotive manufacturers an idea of product specialist — highly trained men and women and people of diversity who could talk about cars and become real gear heads."
The idea evolved, and now her company has a class called Auto Show 101 that teaches the models what consumers are looking for.
"They give the voice to the car," Krevsky says. "And these are not the magnates that are running the companies; these are the people that are right there — where the rubber meets with the road — with the American public."