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Coronavirus Fears Lead to the Cancellation of the Geneva Auto Show, Leaving Automakers Scrambling for Alternative Ways to Show Off Their New Models

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【Summary】The outbreak of the Coronavirus prompted the cancellation of this year’s Geneva auto show, as countries around the world work to contain the virus. On Friday, Switzerland banned large events expected to draw more than 1,000 people in an effort to control the virus.

FutureCar Staff    Feb 28, 2020 4:45 PM PT
Coronavirus Fears Lead to the Cancellation of the Geneva Auto Show, Leaving Automakers Scrambling for Alternative Ways to Show Off Their New Models
The massive show floor of the 2019 Geneva auto show. (Photo: Robert Hradil Getty Images)

Each year, global automakers flock to Switzerland to show off their latest vehicles at the Geneva Auto Show, traditionally one of the world's biggest gatherings of the auto industry. Joining them are thousands of members of the media who travel to Switzerland to attend automotive press conferences. However this year that won't happen.

The outbreak of the Coronavirus prompted the cancellation of this year's auto show, as countries around the world work to contain the virus. Switzerland on Friday banned large events expected to draw more than 1,000 people in an effort to curb a coronavirus outbreak that has spread from China across the world.

"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," said Maurice Turrettini, Chairman of the Geneva International Motor Show Foundation Board.

In Wuhan China, where the virus originated, automakers have shut down their manufacturing facilities, furloughing auto plant workers in an effort to control the spread of the virus. Wuhan is a major automotive manufacturing region, equivalent to Detroit in the U.S.

More than 160 exhibitors were scheduled to show off their cars and services at the 90th Geneva Motor Show, which was due to begin on Monday. The show was scheduled to run until March 15. Many of the world's top automakers are now scrambling to find alternative ways to show off their new models.

German automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz said they would use live-streaming to present the BMW Concept i4 and a revamped Mercedes E-Class respectively. The BMW i4 concept was a highly anticipated new electric vehicle from the automaker. BMW said the electric i4 will produce 523 horsepower and offer around 373 miles (600 kilometers) of range.

BMW CEO Oliver Zipse will livestream a press conference for the global debut of the Concept i4 at 2:15 a.m. ET on Tuesday —the original time of the press conference at the show, the company said in a release Friday.

Mercedes Benz was scheduled to unveil the next-generation E-Class, one of the company's best vehicle model lines.

Porsche was scheduled to unveil the new version of the iconic 911 sports car. Instead, the company plans to host a press conference online Tuesday to unveil it.

Italian automaker Ferrari does not plan to arrange any alternative events, according to Reuters. Fiat Chrysler planned to debut the new electric Fiat 500. The company is still deciding on an alternative unveiling.

French brand DS, part of PSA Group  said it was seeking a venue near Paris to showcase a new concept car and was rescheduling media interviews with its executives by telephone.

Luxury performance brand Audi said it would seek to use digital channels to launch its new Audi A3 sportback and Audi e-Tron S, a high performance version of the automaker's first fully-electric e-tron SUV.

Last year 660,000 people attended the Geneva show and the exhibition generated an estimated 200-250 million Swiss francs ($205-$256 million) worth of business.

Visitors who bought tickets for the Geneva Auto Show will be issued refunds. However exhibitors will lose out. Since the decision to cancel the event was made by the country's health authorities and not the organizer Palexpo, automakers must pack up and leave at their own expense.

"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 Turrettini.

The show will not be rescheduled. The show's organizer Palexpo says its too big of an auto show to move to a later date.

resource from: Reuters

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