The organizers of the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) have announced the event will not take place in 2021, having also been cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While it is likely that travel restrictions and social distancing measures will have been further relaxed by March 2021, when the show was supposed to take place, car manufacturers are unwilling to attend.
The Foundation of the Geneva International Motor Show (FGMIS) said in a statement: “A majority of GIMS exhibitors who took part in a survey stated that they would probably not participate in a 2021 edition and that they would prefer to have a GIMS in 2022.”
Even before the coronavirus pandemic pressed the pause button on much of the world’s car industry, manufacturers had increasingly shied away from traditional motor shows. Instead, they have taken to hosting their own events at a time and place to suit them, and their annual development and launch cycle.
The Foundation added: “The automotive sector is currently going through a difficult phase, and exhibitors need time to recover from the effects of the pandemic. Furthermore, it is far from certain that the current health situation would permit the organization of an event attracting more than 600,000 visitors and 10,000 journalists next spring.”
The last-minute cancellation of the 2020 show – a decision made just days before the doors were due to open, and after most manufacturers had already set up their stands – left organizers facing a huge financial shortfall. To help out, the state of Geneva offered a CHF16.8 million (£14.1m) loan to the FGIMS, but this was dependent on a 2021 show taking place.
Now that that isn’t happening, the loan has been declined. FGIMS also announced this week the decision to offer to sell the show to Palexpo SA, the company that runs the Palexpo convention center where the show takes place, next to Geneva airport.
Geneva has long been the jewel in the crown of the annual motor show calendar, and is traditionally where the majority of the industry gathers, on neutral ground, to reveal their latest and most popular models. However, manufacturers are constantly developing new vehicles and aren’t always ready to reveal their latest offerings in March every year.
Some, like Ford, have held their own events for the last several years. These take place at a time and place of the manufacturer’s choosing, and mean it gets to enjoy the headlines of the motoring press to itself that week, instead of sharing with rivals from all across the show floor.
There are further questions surrounding the future of the Paris and Germany motor shows, which take place in alternate years. Major changes are likely for both, and the German event is due to move from its normal home in Frankfurt to Munich for 2021.
All of this creates an opportunity for events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, pictured above. Although also cancelled for 2020, the event is a staple of the annual motoring calendar, giving both the press and public an opportunity to see the latest vehicles, often in motion, and in a setting many find more appealing than a characterless convention hall.
Plus it is an event held mostly outdoors – a detail that could still be in its favor in the summer of 2021, depending on the availability of a Covid-19 vaccine.
It was clear to see in March that 2020 would cause widespread disruption to the auto industry. But what’s now also clear is how it will likely cause permanent change, too.