Like other major auto shows around the world, this year’s Geneva Motor Show will be significantly downsized, as many as 13 top-tier automakers already announcing they won’t participate. But now, there’s a question of whether the first big European car show of the year will take place at all.
A number of global trade and travel shows have been cancelled or delayed due to the growing concerns about a coronavirus pandemic, including the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Frankfurt’s Light + Building fair and the Beijing Auto Show, Reuters reports. Now, it seems, organizers of the Geneva Motor Show are trying to decide what to do.
For the moment, they want to move ahead with the annual event which begins on March 3, with a media preview. But managers of the convention center where the show will be held said in a new statement, “In the context of the coronavirus epidemic afflicting China, Palexpo SA is carefully observing the situation and its possible implications.”
Should all go on as planned, the public would begin streaming into the Palexpo convention center on March 5, the show continuing through to the 15th. If the event comes close to matching last year’s attendance, as many as 700,000 people could turn out for the show, many coming from the far corners of the world. But there is growing global concern about the threat such large gatherings pose.
As a Reuters report noted, “The Geneva car show will include visitors and exhibitors from Northern Italy, such as Ferrari’s Chief Executive Louis Camilleri and Chinese executives from Smart, a brand which is jointly run by Germany’s Daimler and China’s Geely.”
China is, of course, the country where the coronavirus was first reported and where tens of thousands of cases, and hundreds of deaths, have already been reported. But Italy has now become a secondary epicenter, with more new cases of the virus reported than anywhere else in Europe.
The World Health Organization, which is itself based in Geneva, said on Monday that it did not see the need for current precautionary steps outside of China that would “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.” But, as the move by organizers of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona shows, some event organizers aren’t taking chances.
Palexpo officials did say they’d “encourage” any company exhibiting at the Geneva Motor Show to make sure staff coming to the event don’t show signs of the disease “to avoid any risk of spread.” But what is complicating matters is the discovery that the coronavirus can become contagious even before existing victims begin to show symptoms of the disease.
And Motor Show organizers might not be the only ones to exercise caution. “If one or two exhibitors decide the health risks to staff are too high, that will likely trigger more to withdraw until the show looks unsustainable,” wrote GlobalData automotive editor David Leggett.
Even before the coronavirus erupted, Geneva officials were advised by a long list of manufacturers that they wouldn’t attend this year. Thirteen are so far planning to be no-shows, including: Cadillac, Citroen, Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Subaru, Tata and Volvo.
Geneva is just the latest of the major global auto shows to see an exodus of traditional participants. The turnout by both automakers and the public was so weak last autumn that organizers have announced the end of the semi-annual Frankfurt Motor Show.
The future of the Paris Motor Show scheduled for this coming October could also hang in the balance. Turnout for that event in 2018 was down substantially. The North American International Auto Show in Detroit has also suffered a large decline in manufacturer participation and this year is moving from January to June in a bid to recreate itself.