Geneva Motor Show canceled amid Swiss ban on large gatherings

Organizers said earlier this week that the show, which attracts as many as 700,000 people, would go on.
Image: Geneva Auto Show Cancelled Due To Coronavirus Fears
Exhibitions are being packed after cancellation of the Geneva Auto Show on Feb. 28, 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland.Robert Hradil / Getty Images

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By Paul A. Eisenstein

In an unprecedented move, organizers have canceled the Geneva International Motor Show, one of the global auto industry’s largest public events, due to concerns about the spreading coronavirus.

The 90th running of the show, which was to have begun March 3 with a two-day media preview and continued through March 15, was scheduled to see dozens of new cars, trucks and crossovers introduced by manufacturers as diverse as Audi, Hyundai, Ferrari and Aston Martin.

Organizers had said as recently as the beginning of this week that the Geneva show would go on as planned, but left open the possibility they would reverse course. The decision to cancel the event came as the number of cases of the disease soared, with Switzerland now reporting 15 cases.

“We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors' top priority," said Maurice Turrettini, chairman of the Foundation Board. “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.”

The auto show has attracted as many as 700,000 members of the public in years past. The Swiss government, however, had ordered that, for at least the next few weeks, no event could take place in which more than 1,000 people were expected to attend.

The decision to cancel the auto show followed similar moves elsewhere in Europe. The Beijing Motor Show was also dropped, and events including the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and the Frankfurt’s Light + Building fair have either been taken off the calendar or postponed.

The auto industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic. Plants across China were kept closed following the Lunar New Year, especially those in Wuhan, the city where the first cases occurred. While many factories have reopened, Chinese auto production is running slower than normal, according to Michael Dunne, chief analyst for ZoZo Go, an automotive consulting firm specializing in the Asian region.

Vehicle sales in China, the world’s largest automotive market, are down by 92 percent so far this month, according to industry officials. Moody’s Investor Service this week said it expects that the epidemic will result in a 2.5 percent reduction in global car sales for 2020. It had previously had forecast a 0.9 percent decline.