Is this the beginning of the end for traditional motor shows?
The 2020 Geneva Motor Show was the first of many auto shows that were abruptly canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, new models that were supposed to debut at the show such as the Bentley Bacalar and 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo were revealed online instead.
Since then, there have been growing fears that the Geneva Motor Show will not return in 2021. Organizers of the show are facing significant financial losses over the 2020 show's cancelation and some automakers such as Aston Martin, Bentley, and Lamborghini have already confirmed they won't be attending next year's show. Now, organizers have confirmed the 2021 Geneva Motor Show has been canceled, meaning the event won't return until March 2022 at the earliest.
In a statement, organizers said the majority of exhibitors stated they "would probably not participate in a 2021 edition in and that they would prefer to have a GIMS in 2022" in a survey.
Automakers have also suffered financial losses from production shutdowns and reduced sales, so it would be hard to justify the steep costs required to attend Geneva next year. Given the current health crisis, organizers are also doubtful they would be allowed to host an event that attracts more than 600,000 visitors and 10,000 journalists next spring.
After the 2020 Geneva Motor Show was canceled in March, the Foundation requested the Canton of Geneva for financial support to cover the losses, which were estimated at 11 million Swiss francs, and help prepare for next year's show. A loan of 16.8 million Swiss Francs was approved by the Grand Council, but the Foundation "does not see the terms of the loan as a guarantee of the long-term financial stability of the Foundation in its present form" as 1 million Swiss francs would need to be repaid in June 2021.
This isn't a viable option because the Foundation won't be able to generate enough funds by then now that the 2021 Geneva Motor Show has been canceled. The loan was also declined because one of the conditions required an event to be organized in 2021.
Without a loan secured, organizers are looking to sell the rights to the Geneva Motor Show to Palexpo SA, which owns the convention center where the event is held, to "ensure the regular organization of an International Motor Show in Geneva." Since it's the largest public event in Switzerland, canceling the event completely would be disastrous for the country as it generates an estimated CHF 200 million ($210 million) per year.
With more automakers pulling out of large public auto shows in favor of hosting smaller private events that cost less and generate more exposure, this could be the beginning of the end for traditional motor shows.