Currently reading: Geneva motor show boss reveals plans for Qatar offshoot
Called GIMS Qatar, it is expected to attract 200,000 visitors; Geneva also confirmed to return next year

The organisers of the dormant Geneva motor show have announced aggressive plans first to lend their expertise to the running of an “ultimate festival of automotive excellence” in Qatar later this year, and then to bring back a traditional Swiss show in Geneva’s Palexpo exhibition centre in February 2024.

The Geneva organisers believe the Qatar event, which they call GIMS  (Geneva International Motor Show) Qatar, can attract 200,000 visitors to Doha, the capital of a country that bills itself as the “most open” in the region, and which is currently basking in the success of the recent football World Cup. 

The new motoring festival will be staged between 5-14 October and is scheduled to run every two years thereafter, coinciding with this year’s Qatar F1 Grand Prix already scheduled between 6-8 October. 

The event is a part of a bold move by Qatari authorities to build the country’s tourist numbers, currently running at around two million a year, to six million by 2030. The aim, they say, is to convert Qatar “from a stopover to a destination.” 

The Qatar Motoring Festival will have three main strands: a conventional static exhibition in the capital’s centrally located Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), a series of driving events on Qatar’s Lusail racing circuit, which is 12 miles north of the city centre, and a programme of off-road driving events at nearby Sealine, where the desert meets the ocean south of Doha. 

Lusail circuit2

Exhibitors are being invited to set up their own desert camps in the Sealine region to attract the 4x4 enthusiasts that abound in Middle Eastern countries. In addition, a new automobile museum that is officially due to open in 2025, will display part of its “exceptional” classic car collection during this year’s GIMS Qatar event.

GMIS Qatar’s CEO Sandro Mesquita, appointed CEO of the Geneva International Motor Show in June 2020 — soon after the Swiss event disappeared from the international show schedules — promises “a wide range of unique driving experiences” in Qatar this October. A key feature will be a Parade of Excellence, designed to attract show participants and local car enthusiasts alike, on the Doha Corniche, a six-kilometre seaside highway.  

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Mesquita declines to name the major car companies he says have “registered” to join the new event, though he contends that reaction has been “very positive” since a 40-strong group of OEM representatives were invited to visit Doha last November to hear plans and visit facilities. The names of participating car manufacturers will be available soon, says Mesquita, but his organisers are currently “not allowed” to reveal them.

The central Doha exhibition centre has five halls covering 23,000 square metres, says Mesquita, promising an event “on a human scale”, similar in size to traditional Geneva shows. The plan is to stage world car launches as well as revealing models that are new to the region. The emphasis is likely to be on major European OEMs, though “like in Paris this year” Mesquita expects strong participation from Chinese car makers currently bidding to increase worldwide export markets.

Though the Middle Eastern regions are well known for their high interest in large 4x4s, hypercars and super-luxury models — and Qatar boasts the fastest-growing car market in the region — organisers point out that the country has a National Vision 2030 policy similar to Europe’s, designed to boost interest in electric cars and improve charging infrastructure.

Geneva motor show

CEO Sandro Mesquita is reluctant to say much about next year’s Swiss show — beyond fixing the dates between 26 February and 3 March — but agrees there is an imperative for organisations like his own to fight the recent decline in traditional motor shows. 

He also insists there was never a plan to move the Geneva Show to Qatar. 

Next year’s Palexpo event will be familiar to traditional attendees, he says, though there will be “important changes”. More details will be available “soon”.

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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