28 February, 2020

Geneva International Motor Show cancelled by Swiss authorities

The Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, just a day after organisers assured it was ‘business as normal’.

Swiss authorities have banned any event that would see a gathering of more than 1,000 people with immediate effect. This means the show, scheduled to begin on 2 March, cannot now take place. The news comes as health authorities in the city confirmed a case of the virus, bringing the country’s total up to four.

‘The Federal Council's top priority is to protect the population,’ the country’s government announced. ‘It is responding to the latest developments in the coronavirus epidemic and has categorised the situation in Switzerland as ‘special' in terms of the Epidemics Act. This enables the Federal Council, in consultation with the cantons, to order measures that are normally the responsibility of the cantons.’

Ready to go

‘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.

In a press conference, Turrettini added that the decision to cancel the 90th running of the event ‘was not our responsibility, it was a federal decision, a law, and one that we have been waiting on for two days.’

He also confirmed that exhibitors would not receive refunds due to force majeure; however, members of the public who had bought tickets to the event would be eligible to get their money back.

The halls of the Palexpo were already prepared, with stand construction complete. Carmakers were not due to move into the exhibition arena until this weekend, however.

‘I would like to thank all the various people who were working for the motor show, they have been under a lot of stress for the last two days, but understand the situation was not our fault,’ added Turrettini.

Full cancellation

Organisers confirmed that due to the scale of the event, it would not be possible to hold it at a later date this year. Dates are not yet available for the 2021 event, which Turrettini confirmed would be ‘the 91st Geneva International Motor Show.’

Work is now underway to deconstruct the stands, while organisers and manufacturers will count the financial cost for the cancellations. ‘[These costs] for all those involved in the event are significant and will need to be assessed over the coming weeks,’ Palexpo said.

‘We do not have the figures yet,’ said Turrettini, when asked about financial consequences. ‘In Geneva, we expected up to €250 million to be spent over the course of the event, while we have possibly lost a couple of million euros. We have only just cancelled the event, and will need to take time to understand the full impact.’

GIMS was due to host several model launches, and European debuts. While such events cannot now take place in Geneva, carmakers are likely exploring other avenues in which to launch their vehicles. This may lead to some finding creative ways of making headlines without the need for big-budget stands, impacting future show attendance. However, Turrettini was confident that exhibitors would return next year. ‘We have been in contact with them constantly,’ he said. ‘We have built up trust, and they understand this is not our fault. We hope to welcome them back to the 91st running of the Geneva International Motor Show.’