International Coronavirus Outbreak Cancels Geneva Motor Show

Illustration for article titled International Coronavirus Outbreak Cancels Geneva Motor Show
Image: Edited by Justin Westbrook (Getty Images)

As Italy battles Europe’s toughest outbreak of the Coronavirus and Switzerland has just reported its first case, this year’s Geneva Motor Show, originally planned to open March 3, has been canceled.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the 90th edition of the Geneva International Motor Show will not take place,” the organizers said in a press conference this morning. They went on in a statement on the show’s website:

“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. We would like to warmly thank all those involved in the organisation of the 2020 edition of GIMS.


The Geneva Motor Show is one of the biggest annual shows of the year, as it’s often where the majority of European automakers make their big reveals for new models. It’s also more known for hypercar and supercar reveals, and is one of the few auto shows where companies will actually sell orders for cars on the show floor to attendees.

This year was supposed to be the big reveal of the new eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI, which debuted online last night, as well as other big reveals like the new 992 Porsche 911 Turbo, a new sporty Genesis concept, the redesigned 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, another new Pagani, among others.

As of Wednesday this week, Geneva Motor Show organizers had been adamant that, with proper care and screening before travel, the spread of the virus was not an immediate threat to the show and it would continue as planned with media previews March 2 and the opening day for press on March 3. But in just a few hours, that decision has been reversed.


Coronavirus is estimated to have infected over 82,000 people and led to the death of over 2,800 people, with a rapid increase in reported cases as the virus spreads globally.

It’s unclear if automakers were notified of the changes beforehand, and unclear whether or not they will still be making their planned, often embargoed, announcements next week regardless. As is often the case, though, many companies planned to share their online reveals ahead of the show, and it’s likely any new models will just push their physical show debuts either at the upcoming New York Auto Show in April, or at one of the many other international auto shows later this year.


Palexpo previously updated its website with a notice for travelers about the virus and how to mitigate risks, and announced plans to increase hygiene signage throughout the venue and a more robust cleaning and disinfecting program for the event. Organizers have been following the guidance of the General Directorate of Health of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

The city of Geneva is tucked in a corner of Switzerland that borders northern Italy, which is currently suffering one of Europe’s most extreme outbreaks of the Coronavirus. The first case reported in Switzerland was from an individual who had traveled from Italy. Travelers from the country have also been linked to spreading the virus to the Canary Islands of Spain and two new cases in Britain, among others.


Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Romania all reported their first known cases this week, as well.

The New York Times is now reporting confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in 47 countries, and those and more are rapidly planning response plans for potential outbreaks that could impact millions of people and seriously damage world economies already struggling with slumps and setbacks.


The virus was already expected to overshadow any narrative from the show this year, regardless of delay or cancellation. One employee at Italdesign, a boutique carmaker located in northern Italy owned by Volkswagen Group, tested positive for the virus and the company was forced to suspend operations. Fiat Chrysler has also started restricting access to its European facilities in the wake of the outbreak.

Elsewhere, the virus is wreaking havoc on automotive supply lines out of China as business operations have locked down across the country, where the virus is believed to have originated in its current form. It’s possibly the most pressing issue for automakers already struggling with slipping demand, Brexit, and U.S. tariff negotiations, among other pressing global issues.


Up until Thursday, no automakers or vendors had announced plans to back out of the show due to the virus. Cadillac, Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot, Citroen, Opel, Vauxhall, Subaru, Tata, Tesla, and Volvo had already announced they would not be attending for various other reasons before the outbreak posed any considerable threat to the show.

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik

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Good. I’m not convinced it is impossible to have a show like right now, but whoever is in charge of this auto show has certainly demonstrated that they can’t put on a show like this right now.