The annual Geneva auto show, also known as the Geneva International Motor Show or GIMS, has been canceled for 2020 after the Swiss government has enacted a temporary ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The ban comes as journalists and automaker executives from around the globe prepared to travel to Switzerland for the event, which will not be rescheduled.
Governments continue their attempts to slow the spread of the coronavirus strain known as COVID-19. The genesis of the current outbreak has been traced to Wuhan, China, while cases have been subsequently diagnosed in the United States, other Asian countries, and Europe, including Switzerland. In addition, a small concentration of the disease has appeared in northern Italy, the border of which is only an hour’s drive from Geneva. The major Italian cities of Turin and Milan are roughly 150 and 200 miles away, respectively.
Many automakers had already decided to cancel—or were on the verge of canceling—plans to attend the show, either in full or partially by keeping key executives away from the Geneva Palexpo conference center. Toyota, for example, scuttled its U.S. media trip on February 27. Some scheduled vehicle debuts will still take place digitally. BMW has said its Concept i4 will be shown via a livestream presentation, and cars such as the 2021 Volkswagen GTI, Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, and Polestar Precept concept have already been unveiled online. It is expected some premieres will be delayed, however.
Media days and automaker press conferences for the show were scheduled to take place March 3 and 4, while public days were slated for March 5 through 15. The Swiss ban on large gatherings is expected to be lifted by March 15 pending developments in the coronavirus outbreak. In a statement, Geneva show organizers said, “We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors’ top priority. This is a case of force majeure and a tremendous loss for the manufacturers who have invested massively in their presence in Geneva. However, we are convinced that they will understand this decision.”
Coronaviruses are generally common, but COVID-19 is a new strain with no current known cure. It is said to present as flulike symptoms, if symptoms appear at all, with fatality rates placed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 2 percent; for comparison, the fatality rate for influenza in the U.S. is approximately 0.1 to 0.2 percent. Anyone who displays a fever, coughing, or shortness of breath within 2 to 14 days of a possible exposure are encouraged to seek medical attention.
The full text of the Geneva organizers’ statement is below.
THE GENEVA INTERNATIONAL MOTOR SHOW IS CANCELLED!
The 90th edition of the GIMS, which was supposed to welcome the media from next Monday and the general public from 5 to 15 March 2020, will now finally not take place. This is an injunction decision of the Federal Council of 28 February 2020 that no events with more than 1,000 people are allowed to take place until 15 March 2020. The decision falls 3 days before the opening of the exhibition to the media.
The organizers accept this decision: “We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors’ top priority. This is a case of force majeure and a tremendous loss for the manufacturers who have invested massively in their presence in Geneva. However, we are convinced that they will understand this decision,” said Maurice Turrettini, Chairman of the Foundation Board. We would like to warmly thank all those involved in the organisation of the 2020 edition of GIMS.
A few days before the opening of the event, the construction of the stands was very nearly complete. A week ago, during the press conferences announcing the 2020 edition, there was nothing to suggest that such a measure was necessary. The situation changed with the appearance of the first confirmed coronavirus diseases in Switzerland and the injunction of the Federal Council on 28.02.2020. The event is cancelled due to this decision.
In the meantime, the dismantling of the event will now have to be organised. The financial consequences for all those involved in the event are significant and will need to be assessed over the coming weeks. One thing is certain: Tickets already purchased for the event will be refunded. The organisers will communicate about this as soon as possible, via their website.