Thu March 22, 2012

Eye Candy And Brain Food? The Auto Show Product Specialist

What does the Denver International Auto show have in common with the Ringling Brothers Circus? It’s not animals – or tiny little cars. 

Thousands of people will file through the Denver Auto Show this year, some eying the latest sports car, others the practical sedan. And showing off the next must have vehicle are product specialist, or for a lack of a better word –models.

“It’s almost like a little circus.”

Brenda is one of those models. She’s a tall slender woman from Dallas, Texas. We can’t use her last name – or others in this story – at the request of their employers for confidentiality reasons.

Standing on a rotating stage with a small microphone attached to her ear, Brenda easily turns on her charm, reciting the horsepower, amenities, and warranties of a brand new Buick crossover.

And just like traveling in a circus – she’s been hopping from town to town for 18 years.

“My grandfather owned a dealership in a small town in Texas, so I’ve always loved cars. But I never knew the intricate details that went into it, so it was kind of overwhelming at first.”

There are nearly 80 auto shows across the country each year which make up the circuit. A typical product specialist may work at 10 or more of those shows. They spend most of the day on their feet and get a half hour for lunch.

Although they work for competing companies, Brenda says they hang out with each other and have come to form a close knit group.

“We do make friends with each other. We meet in the break rooms and we might go out to dinner with each other and meet friends through friends.”

Over at the Honda Display – Sam is leaning against a counter full of brochures. A recent college grad from Milwaukee, Wisconsin he’s been to six cities during his first three weeks on the job.

“It’s a new adventure, and I think adventure would be it. Because you never really know. You’re taking each city really on your own.  You go by yourself, you know it’s going to be a good time; and you’re going to be with some great people. But it’s really a new experience on your own every single time."

Like most product specialists – Sam works for a talent agency of models and actors that have contracts with the major automakers. But everyone of the product specialists knows what they're talking about, from engine torque, to compression ratios and break force distribution.

“Yes, we are well trained.”

That’s Sims. With 14 years of experience with Toyota, she knows each of the 21 different models offered in the United States.

“We go to a one week training every year and its fairly extensive, and one of my co-workers put it beautifully, I heard her quote to someone: I may be eye candy, but we’re also brain food. And I thought that’s so true.”

Dana also works with Toyota. Hailing from New York City, she splits her time between auto shows, and trying to secure a full time job as an actor.

“I actually came in from Columbus on Monday. I was doing the show in Columbus I flew into New York I put myself on tape for a Broadway show and then flew out to Denver moments later."

Back at the Buick area, Brenda is still going over her spiel – even after 18 years.

“It’s an honor, it really is. I mean, to have an American made product with new beautiful details and I get to be the first to tell people about it…it really is an honor.”

I ask if it makes her nervous. Smiling, she admits it does. That's why she comes in early every day to practice.

The Denver International Auto Show runs through Sunday at the Colorado Convention Center. After this weekend, some of these specialists will head off to Colorado Springs, others to New York.

I’ll have to check, but I don’t think the circus is in either of those towns – or maybe it is.