The 2020 Geneva motor show has been cancelled, following a ban by the Swiss government on gatherings of 1000 people or more.
The ban was enacted tonight in response to the growing risk of a coronavirus pandemic in Europe, with hundreds of confirmed cases and over a dozen dead already confirmed in northern Italy. France has also suffered two deaths so far, with 17 confirmed cases.
Media access to the 90th Geneva show was set to begin on March 3, with doors opening to the public from March 5-15.
More than 600,000 people attended the 2019 Geneva motor show.
In a statement released Friday night, Australian time, the Swiss Federal Council said: "In view of the current situation and the spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council has categorised the situation in Switzerland as ‘special’ in terms of the Epidemics Act. Large-scale events involving more than 1000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March."
The statement from the Geneva Motor Show can be read at the bottom of this article.
A number of brands had already pulled out of this year's show – before the virus reached Europe – including Citroen, Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Subaru and Volvo.
This is not unique, however, with mounting display costs and declining market influence leading more and more car makers to back away from the traditional motor show format in recent years.
Known officially as Covid-19, fear of the spreading coronavirus has led to the cancellation of multiple events in recent weeks, including the giant Mobile World Congress technology convention that was due to be held this week in Spain.
Australia's third best-selling car brand Hyundai has confirmed factory shutdowns, with South Korea currently suffering the highest number of Covid-19 cases outside of China.
Global corporations are also moving to ban or severely limit staff travel, including automotive manufacturers. Three new-model launch events at international locations have been cancelled in the past week, with more likely to follow.
Formula One and Formula E races in China have been postponed, and the International Olympic Committee is facing questions around the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, scheduled to begin in late July.
The Geneva Motor Show announcement
"The 90th edition of the GIMS, which was supposed to welcome the media from next Monday and the general public from 5 to 15 March 2020, will now finally not take place. This is an injunction decision of the Federal Council of 28 February 2020 that no events with more than 1,000 people are allowed to take place until 15 March 2020. The decision falls 3 days before the opening of the exhibition to the media.
"The organizers accept this decision: "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.
"A few days before the opening of the event, the construction of the stands was very nearly complete. A week ago, during the press conferences announcing the 2020 edition, there was nothing to suggest that such a measure was necessary. The situation changed with the appearance of the first confirmed coronavirus diseases in Switzerland and the injonction of the Federal Council on 28.02.2020. The event is cancelled due to this decision.
"In the meantime, the dismantling of the event will now have to be organised. The financial consequences for all those involved in the event are significant and will need to be assessed over the coming weeks. One thing is certain: tickets already purchased for the event will be refunded. The organisers will communicate about this as soon as possible, via their website."
The calendar ahead
The next major international motor show scheduled for 2020 is the Bangkok International Auto Show (March 23 - April 4). Organisers have yet to announce plans regarding Covid-19.
The New York motor show is up next from April 8, and organisers have confirmed plans to plow ahead.
The Beijing Motor Show was set to follow in late April, but has been postponed.
June brings the North American International Auto Show, with organisers likely watching in hope that the danger of the virus's spread will diminish in the meantime.