Well, that’s it, then. Is the traditional auto show dead? The tombstone has yet to be erected, but Monday’s cancellation of the 2021 Geneva International Motor Show, coming on the heels of so many cancellations in 2020, certainly makes it feel as if, somewhere, an epitaph’s being chiseled on a monument.
The planned 2020 Geneva event was the first international trade show cancelled this year (at the 11th hour, it should be noted) as the coronavirus spread north from a Northern Italy hot spot, heralding a slew of cancellations to follow. New York, a month later, then Detroit in June. China and Germany.
And now Geneva again.
In a statement released today, the show’s organizers — the Committee and Council of the Foundation “Salon International de l’Automobile” — said the show will likely be sold to Palexo SA, the owner of the event’s regular venue.
Scheduled to be held March 4th to 14th, 2021, the now-scrapped show met its fate for a number of reasons. First and foremost, organizers said, was that a “majority of GIMS exhibitors who took part in a survey, stated that they would probably not participate in a 2021 edition in and that they would prefer to have a GIMS in 2022.”
“The automotive sector is currently going through a difficult phase, and exhibitors need time to recover from the effects of the pandemic,” the Foundation continued. “Furthermore, it is far from certain that the current health situation would permit the organisation of an event attracting more than 600,000 visitors and 10,000 journalists next spring.”
It’s not that the money wasn’t there for a new edition of the show; rather, it was the conditions attached to an 11 million Swiss franc loan from the Canton of Geneva (approved in June) that forced the Foundation’s hand. The organizers say they’ve turned down the loan on the grounds that “the Foundation would be obliged to make a repayment of 1 million Swiss francs as early as June 2021, before having had the opportunity to generate additional funds, as the GIMS 2021 edition cannot take place.”
“It is also considered inadmissible that one condition of the loan is that an event has to be organized in 2021. The loan is therefore not accepted,” the Foundation stated, adding that it has decided in favor of selling the show’s assets and rights to Palexpo SA.
“The aim is to find a solution that will ensure the regular organization of an International Motor Show in Geneva,” they said.
Since the Detroit auto show’s move from January to early summer (an event that’s yet to actually occur in real life), Geneva serves as the first major auto show of the year. The event, Switzerland’s largest, was first held in 1905.
It’s impossible to say whether the traditional auto show is dead. Certainly, the presence of a virus that shows no signs of departing our planet and the resulting run of online-only product introductions shows that automakers can get the message out without the need to stuff overfed auto journos onto planes for a series of splashy debuts under one roof. Of course, as we’ve mentioned many a time, auto shows are not about journos and shrimp. They’re for potential buyers, and those who’d sell to them.