Tears will flow if the Geneva Motor Show never returns

Organizers of one the world’s best and biggest auto shows have closed the door on the possibility of the event returning in 2021 after this year’s show was cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

One of the World's Best and Largest Auto Shows Could Be Dead Forever
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In an interview with La Tribune de Geneve, Geneva Motor Show director Sandro Mesquita painted a grim picture of the event’s future, casting doubts that we’ll ever see the show in its old light ever again.

Between financial problems and the ongoing uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the show’s organizers have reluctantly announced plans to sell the show’s assets to the owners of the Palexpo conference center in Geneva where the show is held every year.

Has the popularity of auto shows declined in recent years?

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If you’re a fan of all the pomp and glamour surrounding some of the biggest auto shows in the world, you have at least observed that the event’s popularity has waned in recent years as more and more automakers opt for online debuts of their vehicles. Not only is the latter option cheaper than the traditional auto show setup, but it also gives automakers complete control on how they choose to unveil their new models and products.

For some time now, the Geneva Motor Show was the exception to that. If an automaker had an important car debut, there was a good chance that the debut would happen at the Geneva Motor Show. It was the safest choice among all the shows to keep thriving in the face of all the new platforms automakers had at their disposal.

Then COVID-19 showed up.

What kind of effect did the coronavirus pandemic have on the show?

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As seriously as the coronavirus pandemic continues, it’s hard not to lament the timing of when it exploded as a pandemic. The 2020 Geneva Motor Show was due to take place from March 5 to 15, 2020. Unfortunately, the outbreak in Europe started gaining steam sometime in late February.

As countries started locking down their borders, the possibility of the show getting canceled started gaining steam. Organizers tried to assure everyone that the show could still go on, but a week before it was supposed to open, the spread of the virus throughout Europe became too big to ignore. The show was canceled days before it was supposed to open, leaving everyone scrambling on how to proceed with all the events and debuts that were lined up for the show.

A lot of automakers still went ahead and unveiled their new models, albeit through online events. The show’s organizers, on the other hand, had to face the economic consequences of the canceled show and all the ramifications that came with it.

How much money did the organizers lose because of the canceled show?

One of the World's Best and Largest Auto Shows Could Be Dead Forever
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Last May, the Foundation that was in charge of the organization of the Geneva Motor Show appealed to the Canton of Geneva for financial support in light of the amount of money the Show lost when the show was canceled.

It’s been revealed that organizers lost an estimated 11 million Swiss francs or around $11.5 million based on current exchange rates.

The Geneva State Council was prepared to offer a loan of 16.8 million Swiss francs to cover the losses cost by the cancellation of this year’s show while also helping prepare for next year’s show. But the Foundation balked on accepting the loan in large part due to the conditions attached to the load, specifically the outsourcing of the show and its conceptualization to Palexpo.

Now that it’s been revealed that the gatekeepers of the Geneva Auto Show are planning to sell the show’s assets to owners of the Palexpo conference center in Geneva, another layer of complication adds to what has already become a dire situation for a lot of people involved in the show.

What’s the future of the Geneva Motor Show going to look like?

One of the World's Best and Largest Auto Shows Could Be Dead Forever
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That, admittedly, is anyone’s guess at this point. The only thing we know for sure is that the 2021 Geneva Motor Show is not happening. An announcement has already been made surrounding the fate of next year’s show, or the lack of one since it’s not happening anymore. Beyond that, though, is still a matter of speculation. For what that’s worth, don’t hold out hope that the show will return back to its old form anytime soon.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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