Due to both the economic and human cost of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the organizers of the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) have called off the 2021 show. Considering that the show typically takes place in March, this announcement suggests that it may be quite a while before things return to normal in the automotive world.
Above, the Ginetta Akula at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.
The 2020 GIMS had to be called off at the last minute back in March. Planned and organized long before the coronavirus halted economies and travel worldwide, the organizers initially said that the 2020 show would go on, and simply requested that those with symptoms steer clear. After public backlash and a widespread impression that GIMS organizers weren’t taking the pandemic seriously, organizers called off the show. This time they won’t be so cavalier; they’re calling off the next show nine months in advance.
The decision was made largely due to the response from automakers. According to the GIMS release, the majority of last year’s exhibitors indicated they would likely skip a 2021 show, were it to happen. Not only is it hard to predict whether a large gathering like this will be advisable by March 2021, it’s also an expensive gamble to take. And since automakers have been walloped by plummeting sales in the wake of this outbreak, it’s harder for OEMs to justify high-investment events that may not end up attracting many attendees.
The organizers of the show also announced that they are rejecting a loan from the state of Geneva, in large part because they would have to hold a show in 2021 to receive the loan. Instead, they are accepting the loss of the 2020 and 2021 shows and hoping that GIMS 2022 will be able to proceed at full capacity.
Auto shows worldwide are facing similar dilemmas—these events require months of planning and massive investments. Auto shows were already struggling to stay relevant before the pandemic, but now that large gatherings remain inadvisable for the foreseeable future, it’ll be even harder for them to get by. Due to their large crowds, reliance on international travel, and typically indoor-only accommodations, it’s likely that a normal auto show schedule won’t return for a long time.
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