There will be no Geneva International Motor Show next year, organizers pointing to concerns that the coronavirus pandemic could drag on into 2021.
The annual Swiss gathering was the first car show of the year to be canceled due to the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic, though other major events, including those in New York, Detroit and Paris have since been scrubbed, with industry officials questioning when such shows will be able to safely take place again.
“It is far from certain that the current health situation would permit the organization of an event attracting more than 600’000 visitors and 10,000 journalists next spring,” organizers of what is formally known as the Salon International de l’Automobile said in an e-mailed statement. As a result, “A majority of GIMS exhibitors who took part in a survey, stated that they would probably not participate in a 2021 edition.”
The Geneva show was the first to be directly impacted by the pandemic, Swiss officials ordering it canceled just days before it was set to hold its two-day media preview during the first week of March. By then, the coronavirus had already made its way out of China, with hotspots erupting across Europe, notably in Italy and the United Kingdom. The concern was that visitors to the show would unwittingly bring the disease into Switzerland which, at that point, had only experienced a handful of cases.
But, within weeks, outbreaks were being reported around the world, leading to a rapid cancelation of public events, from sports to business conferences. The New York Auto Show, which was scheduled to take place a month after Geneva, soon announced it was rescheduled until late summer, eventually scrubbing its 2020 gathering entirely.
In Detroit, the North American International Auto Show was set to make its first run in June after abandoning its traditional January timeslot. It also canceled out when the city’s convention hall, TCF Center, was taken over for use as an overflow COVID-19 treatment center.
The Paris Motor Show, originally scheduled for autumn, has also been canceled. Though the Los Angeles International Auto Show is still on the books for November, industry insiders privately tell TheDetroitBureau.com that they also expect it to be scrapped for this year.
Dozens of smaller gatherings across the U.S., as well as abroad, have also been taken off the calendar for this year, and the question many industry planners are asking is whether it will be possible to bring them back, at least during the first part of 2021. Epidemiologists and other medical specialists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been helping lead the White House response to the pandemic, continue to warn that a “second wave” of COVID-19 infections is a strong possibility.
But there are clear signs that the first wave isn’t finished. In recent days, over a dozen states have seen new outbreaks, with many of them, including Florida, Arizona and Texas, reaching record numbers of new infections.
During an online meeting of the Automotive Press Association last week, Rod Alberts, director of the Detroit Automotive Dealers Association, said the group is looking at ways to handle a 2021 version of the North American International Auto Show should the pandemic still linger on.
“We’re confident we’ll find a way to pivot the show whichever way is necessary,” Alberts said. That could force a reduction in the number of people allowed on the show floor at any one time, he added, while the organization might also have to trim back on ticket sales for the annual charity ball marking the public opening. The DADA might also have to put limits on the number of journalists credentialed for the 2021 media preview, said Alberts.
The last-minute cancelation of the Geneva Motor Show created a financial nightmare for organizers. They were originally planning to borrow 16.8 million Swiss francs, or $17.6 million from the regional government. They have since canceled that plan and now will sell the show to the owners of the PALExpo Center convention center where it takes place late each winter.