By on June 29, 2020

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.

[Image: GIMS]

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11 Comments on “We’re Cancelling 2021 Auto Shows Now...”


  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    I predict Detroit 2021 will take place.
    Rise of the machines!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Except for the public (potential customers), auto shows are useless. Without the public, you can’t hold an auto show.

    Same for sports events; this fall/winter will be disastrous, and entire teams may fold without in-person fan revenue. College sports will suffer dramatically.

    I also think that schools and universities are in for a shock when they discover parents refuse to pay for room/board once they pull Johnny out of the dorms after a fresh CV outbreak. Parents & students will demand continuation of online education, and schools will be stuck with billions of dollars of wasted infrastructure.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      Doubt it, SCE. Parents already know what it’s like to have the damn kids at home from the spring semester. They’ll do everything in their power to get rid of them.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I’m one of those parents — 3 under 10, home since Pi Day.

        Illinois is re-opening daycares and schools, and I won’t hesitate to pull our kids back out the instant the numbers go the wrong way.

        Fortunately, I’m pretty much on the same page as my state government. We have a steadily decreasing case-count, but our surgeon general and governor tell us that they re ready to close the schools in any city where that changes. They also suggested we get all of our preventative care done over the summer in case TSHTF in the fall.

        We’ve already done the 3 kids and 2 careers under 1 roof thing for several months. We can do it again, and I won’t hesitate if necessary.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    We may see a return to the original purpose of auto shows: to allow local dealers to sell cars. I can see each manufacturer having a rolling exhibit of previews of coming models that visits smaller local or regional auto shows put together by groups of dealers.

    The expensive huge shows, where high rollers are wined and dined, and auto jounalists vie for news, may have run its course. Maybe we’ll see the smaller shows where potential customers – the public – are the target, like the shows of the 1950s/’60s

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The only reason I ever paid any attention to auto shows was the new product announcements.

      But, Ford can livestream a product unveiling just as easily as Tesla can.

      Event planning is harder than it looks — but it’s well within the abilities of your average corporate marketing folks, just so long as they are given the time to plan and rehearse.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      One of the things I like about the auto show is the prohibition on sales.

  • avatar

    Good grief, just put cut-outs with people’s faces and sell tickets already!

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    The new normal.

    I have to agree with SCE to AUX, that massive events, including sporting events, music concerts and yes, trade shows, will suffer massively.

    The worst by far is the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.
    Even on the best of times, Olympic games are an extremely costly venture, even bankrupting some governments. Exhibit A: Greece.

    My crystal ball is foggy, but something that I think I can accurately predict, is that there will be fewer and smaller gatherings. At least in the near future.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Large gatherings will need to provide clear value in order to attract a crowd, even if a vaccine is ready for use by the general public in January 2021.

      (A vaccine will probably be given to the most vulnerable people first, which suits me just fine. But that means my family probably won’t get it until the spring/summer of 2021, even if it’s approved in January.)

      But even after all of that plays out, going to huge events that don’t provide clear value won’t seem worthwhile. The post 9/11 security theater already mucked with the value proposition , so the event had better be really awesome to justify putting up with that and the potential for severe respiratory illnesses (even if we’ve solved COVID-19) by then.

      So, yeah, event organizers need to be really mindful of the value their event provides going forward.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The Truth About Auto Shows:

    There are essentially two kinds of auto shows:
    – Smaller ‘regional’ shows where the main purpose is to get sales leads
    – A very few larger shows where the main purpose is to get media attention for new product introductions

    Peak NAIAS (Detroit show) was whatever year (mid-late 90’s) that Ford built a massive bridge across their exhibit [haven’t been able to pinpoint the year, since ‘peak google image search’ doesn’t intersect with mid-late 90’s; recall that the iPhone was only introduced in 2007]. GM and Ford were in an NAIAS arms race that year, driven by all the attention Chrysler had been getting.

    Bonus: Check out this picture (toward the end of the page) of the next U.S. President creeping out Mary Barra:
    https://tinyurl.com/someone-is-uncomfortable

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