Geneva, Switzerland – Europe’s largest and most important auto show, due to begin this week, has been cancelled following Switzerland’s decision to ban gatherings of more than 1,000 people out of fears of spreading the coronavirus COVID19.
The Geneva International Motor Show is typically the place where European automakers show off upcoming important vehicles. In the days leading up to the show’s opening, several companies had announced new vehicles that would be on display there, such as Citroen’s Ami, a tiny, two-seat electric vehicle (EV) small enough to let 14-year-olds drive it without a license.
“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 show’s foundation board.
A few days before the opening of the Geneva show, 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 COVID19 cases in Switzerland and the injunction of the Federal Council on Friday.
Swiss officials have confirmed 15 COVID19 cases including several in Geneva and Zurich, the main entry airport to the country. More than 500 other people who had been in contact with those 15 confirmed cases have been tested for the disease and have been asked to stay home and avoid contact with other people.
In the U.S., organizers of the New York International Auto Show expressed their sympathies to their Swiss counterparts, noting that both are among a small family of global auto shows. However, they stressed the New York event, set to open to media on April 8, 2020, will still take place.
“With just under six weeks to go before the 2020 New York International Auto Show's press preview days, we are moving forward with plans to open the Show as scheduled. We are in communication with state and local officials and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and, at this point, there are no plans to cancel any shows at the facility,” New York show organizers said. “The Javits Center is taking precautionary measures inside the venue to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, and the New York Auto Show will follow its lead to protect exhibitors and attendees.”
The next major show after New York is Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. Historically held in January, Detroit auto dealers opted to move the event to the summer in hopes of boosting attendance and automaker involvement that had slipped badly throughout the past several years.
NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts said, “We are closely monitoring the latest information about the novel coronavirus and are reviewing our policies and procedures. We remain optimistic that these health issues will be resolved before the 2020 NAIAS occurs in June. At this point, we remain confident that we will be producing a great show that you won’t want to miss.”