At a time when Japan's once-indomitable auto industry staggers under a domestic recession, sharp yen appreciation, declining sales and growing industry maturity, one thing hasn't changed much.

Even as major companies around the world grow more concerned about sexual discrimination and politically correct behavior, Japan's world-famous Tokyo Motor Show still shows little inhibition with its use of scantily clad women as hood ornaments, tire wrappers and bumper cling-ons."Cars aren't selling, but sex still does," said an official with one of Japan's three largest automakers.

Analysts and professional auto enthusiasts say Japan still hosts one of the most unabashed shows in the world - in a country where women's liberation is not a major national concern.

"The women (here) have much shorter skirts and are more scantily clad than you see in the United States," said Mark Thimmig, president of Leawood, Kan.- based MF Thimmig & Assoc., an auto consultancy. "In the U.S. there's much more conservative dress and concern that you'll offend."

At the Honda exhibit, two women with short red-and-white skirts and sailor hats have soldered themselves onto a Honda FSR sports car. The pair smile vacantly as they pretend to be part of the tire's retread. This draws a steady circle of camera-toting Japanese men with flash bulbs apop.

While Honda's display isn't exactly subtle, nearby Mitsubishi isn't taking any chances. Just in case you miss the connection between the women and their cars, the company has emblazoned its logo in large bright red letters across the front of the models' sleek, surgically applied white dresses.

"There are a lot of Japanese salarymen checking out airbags," said Peter Boardman, an auto analyst with UBS Ltd.

One of the most outrageous booths is the Addzest-Clarion display - a car stereo maker that heralds itself as "The taste for refined sensibilities." I'm not sure Miss Manners would agree. Three young women sport long black boots, fishnet stockings, tight black skirts and long black gloves past their elbows. "All they need is a whip and some lions," said one passerby.

But there also seems to be an inverse relationship between the price tags and the sleaze factor. The $259,800 Aston-Martin and the $247,500 Lamborghini Diablo VT have no female baby sitters nor much evidence of a sales force at all. Some things really do sell themselves.

Jaguar Daimler is also at the industry high end, but it isn't willing to leave quite that much up to chance. "People expect elegance and we try to communicate that elegance in the way we arrange the stand," said David Boore, a company director. "We do have a couple of attractive young ladies, but they're more sober."

Some other mid-market players have also opted for the less-provocative look. Volkswagen models wear light blue fuzzy hats and fake fur coats that provide that homey touch, while conservative market leader Toyota has gone with a staid white jumpsuit and baseball cap motif, perhaps in honor of Japan's recession.

Others opt for future past. Kenwood Car Navigation Systems has several models in silver boots and aluminum foil dresses with foil layering in a real- life rendition of the Jetsons.

Margaret Daiga, a visitor from Australia who has visited the Japan show several times, said she doesn't find the models offensive but believes the selection could be better. "Of all the women here, the millions in Japan, they didn't always pick the best ones," she said.

She adds that at least things has improved since earlier shows in the 1980s when the Japanese women were bowing continuously to the crowds. "Can you imagine how sore their backs must have been?" she said. "That was too much."