This year’s Geneva motor show has been cancelled due to the continued spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
The announcement was made by event organisers after several confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Geneva and other parts of Switzerland. There has been a substantial outbreak of the coronavirus, which originated in China, in northern Italy recently, with cases announced in a number of other European countries.
While organisers initially said the motor show, the biggest event in the automotive calendar, would continue, recent moves by authorities in Geneva and Switzerland to try to limit the spread of Covid-19 led to them finally pull the plug.
Organisers cited "force majeure" when announcing to exhibitors that the event would not go ahead. They also ruled out postponing the event until a later date, noting its size meant that was unfeasible.
Chairman of the Foundation Board Maurice Turrettini said: "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."
The organisers added: "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."
On Friday morning, the Swiss government banned large gatherings. In a statement, the cabinet 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 show was due to open to the press on Tuesday 3 March before opening to the public from 5-15 March. Around 602,000 people attended the show last year.
Several companies had already changed their plans in the days leading up to the confirmation. Audio firm Harman pulled its stand earlier this week, with EV start-up Byton following suit last night. Autocar understands several firms had expressed concern about the prospect of the show continuing and were in the process of reworking their plans for the event.
This year's Chinese Grand Prix, due to take place in April, has already been postponed due to the coronavirus, along with other major events outside the automotive world, including a Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy. A number of Italian Serie A football games due to take place this weekend will be played behind closed doors.
Moves to combat the spread of Covid-19 could have a major impact on the car industry beyond the cancellation of Geneva. Car sales in China, which has been worst hit by the virus, have slumped, and there are concerns about the supply of parts from the country, which remains a major manufacturing hub. For example, in its latest financial results, Aston Martin noted that parts supply issues could potentially delay the launch of the DBX SUV.
On Friday, Hyundai was forced to close one of its factories in South Korea, which has the highest number of Covid-19 cases outside of China, after a worker tested positive for the virus.