Geneva No Show 2020 – The Impact

The 11th-hour cancellation of the 90th edition of the Geneva Motor Show due to the coronavirus outbreak was a disappointment for the slew of exhibitors, journalists and industry professionals that had been expected to attend the prestigious event at the Palexpo last week. 

The biggest losers are of course the manufacturers, especially the small ones. Stands at any auto show cost carmakers several millions (€£$) to build, so we’re not talking small change. Add in all of the time and effort spent on developing not only the cars they were meant to present but also all the presentation materials (speeches, press kits, intro films, etc.) and the true cost of the Geneva No Show has been exorbitant. 

Renault Morphoz Concept

Clearly, some OEMs have begun to see the value of traditional motor shows diminish. The cost/benefit analysis is swayed in favor of the former rather than the latter, and that’s not good for business. Others simply had to sit it out this year, either because their current financial standing wouldn’t allow them to participate or because they didn’t have sufficient new products to justify the cost of setting up a stand. 

Ford, JLR, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Lamborghini, PSA (Peugeot, Citroen, Opel) and Volvo all skipped the show this year, which, in hindsight, was the right call for them. But while it’s still too early to say if the new ‘format’ was worth it for manufacturers showing new generation/heavily facelifted models (Audi A3, Hyundai i20, VW Golf GTI, Mercedes-Benz E-Class) it’s certainly true that smaller companies (Fisker, Morgan, GFG, Pininfarina, etc.) would have benefitted from the bigger impact generated if the show had gone on.

Polestar Precept
Polestar Precept Concept

Everyone had to scramble for a Plan B this year— OEMs that had planned to be in Geneva had to launch alternative events and journalists had to log in to their computers and hastily schedule phone interviews. Gone were the organic interactions of the show – we were instead fed videos and streaming conferences.

Any media outlet that seeks to dig deeper had to make alternative arrangements to attend the one-off events popping up around Europe. For those that create their own photo and video content but could not make it to the new events, the show’s cancellation has had crippling effects. 

Bentley Mulliner Bacalar
Bentley Mulliner Bacalar

I’d also like to note that I don’t enjoy commenting on a new car designs that I have not seen. But this year I had to join the numerous desktop warriors that spend their time in front of a screen rather than on the show stand or, better still, the streets. If it sounds like I’m complaining it’s because I am. Cars are, after all, dynamic objects. They’re meant to move. Or at least be seen in 3D. 

Hopefully we’ll be able to see the new concept and production cars in person at a future auto show, assuming they continue. If manufacturers — already shying away from participating at these events — decide they’re better served through smaller, bespoke gatherings (where they can invite who they please and control the message), it may well be the end of auto shows as we know them.

In the meantime, catch up with our remote coverage here. There’s more to come this week.


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