The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) reached several European nations in the past month. Originating in China’s Wuhan region, the virus has infected 650 people and caused 17 deaths in Italy, while French officials report 2 deaths and 38 remaining cases. With Switzerland reporting 15 active infections, Swiss authorities announced a ban on gatherings of 1,000 or more people on Friday—effectively canceling the 2020 Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS).
For the past 90 years, the Geneva International Motor Show has attracted thousands of journalists and countless car enthusiasts to the Swiss city. With model unveilings and manufacturer announcements, the automotive industry has come to rely on the buzz generated from the annual event.
As the global auto industry braces for a third consecutive year of sales declines, the timing of the GIMS cancellation couldn’t be worse. Major manufacturers like Volkswagon and BMW planned on unveiling new models this year and around 220 exhibitors attend the car show annually.
“We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors’ top priority,” said GIMS Chairman Maurice Turrettini. “This is a case of force majeure and a tremendous loss for the manufacturers who have invested massively in their presence in Geneva.”
However, the coronavirus’s impact on the auto industry doesn’t stop at the Palexpo gates. Plant closures in China and stifled supply chains not only hampers production but continues to weaken consumer confidence.
After hitting a record of 95.2 million cars sold in 2017, global automotive sales have steadily declined with 94.4 million sold in 2018 and 90.3 million sold in 2019. Sales slumps could also thwart manufacturers’ plans to transition to renewable sources of energy and phase out internal combustion engines.
While the cancellation of the 90th Geneva International Motor Show may adversely impact the automotive industry, we hope Switzerland’s preventative measures help to curb the spread of the disease. After all, we want to make sure the Geneva International Motor Show is around for 2021.