Work was well underway to set up the Palexpo convention center in Geneva for this year’s auto show when the decision was made to cancel the event. [credit:
Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg/Getty Images ]
This past Friday, the organizers of the 2020 Geneva International Motor Show could avoid coronavirus no longer. Following a decree by the Swiss government banning public gatherings of more than 1,000 people, they were forced to declare force majeure and cancel this year’s auto show. Although this new coronavirus is more dangerous the older you are, it appears it’s most lethal to trade shows—GIMS now lines up alongside GDC, the Beijing Auto Show, and Mobile World Congress as one more trade show taken down by the bug.
With the decision made so late in the process—the media preview days were scheduled for March 3 and 4—work was already well underway at the Palexpo convention center. Swiss publication Radical took a wander through the half-assembled booths, their photos providing a poignant look behind the curtain. Even before the Swiss called time on GIMS, attendees were reconsidering their plans. The OEMs were petrified of having teams of high-ranking executives sequestered into quarantine should a case be reported in their hotels (particularly given Geneva’s hotel prices!), and plans to bring journalists to the show were mostly shelved by late last week.
So instead of filling the convention halls with the new Volkswagen Golf or some low-volume electric hypercar bearing a nameplate that fell from popularity a century ago, everyone’s scrambling to move those reveals online. In retrospect, it makes the approach taken by some other OEMS—to do just that but in the week leading up to GIMS—look increasingly wise.