Geneva 2021 ‘may not go ahead’ as organisers refuse loan

01 June 2020

1 June 2020

The Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) may not go ahead in 2021, as the organising foundation turns down a CHF16.8 million (€15.7 million) loan from the Canton of Geneva.

GIMS 2020 was cancelled just four days before its opening, following a Swiss Government ruling that gatherings of more than 100 people were to be banned in the country to stem the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Similar rulings and concerns over manufacturer availability have also seen the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) and Mondial Paris events called off or significantly modified.

The GIMS organising foundation initially stated that the cancellation was an act of ‘force majeure’. Therefore it would not be required to reimburse vehicle manufacturers with exhibition space booked. However, following the cancellation, organisers approached the Canton of Geneva asking for a CHF11 million loan, allowing it to refund carmakers and cover other costs.

When offered CHF16.8 million, however, the foundation decided terms of this deal were unacceptable and declined. One such condition was the guarantee of an event taking place in 2021.

‘The organisation of the event in 2021, a condition linked to the urgency clause of the draft legislation, is very uncertain at the moment,’ the foundation commented. ‘Indeed, the major GIMS exhibitors encourage us and strongly recommend to plan the next edition for 2022. It is therefore with deep regret that the foundation must renounce the loan proposal of the Canton of Geneva.’

Organisers went on to say that they will continue efforts to restore financial stability ‘as quickly as possible and to be able to organise a follow-up edition.’

Event impact

With the automotive market in an uncertain place following the COVID-19 outbreak, as the total economic impact is yet to be seen, it is possible that disruption to the industry’s event calendar will continue into 2021. GIMS’s suggestion that exhibitors are calling for a further delay suggests it will take some time for such events to get back to normal.

Next year is also expected to see a major reformatting of Germany’s motor show, the IAA, with the event moving away from Frankfurt and taking place in Munich for the first time. As this takes place in September, it may be that manufacturers will be able to attend their first European show since the pandemic spread, with Geneva’s traditional March date proving too early.

Benefits?

The hiatus may prove to be a silver lining for GIMS however. Attendance at large automotive shows around the world is falling, as the industry transitions to a cleaner future and looks to new trends for profitability, including autonomous technologies and mobility services. The IAA and Mondial Paris, have already put plans in place to embrace these changes, with their shows becoming a ‘festival’ including interactive elements. Such changes have seen good results in Tokyo, where visitor numbers to the city’s motor show jumped from just below 800,000 to more than 1.3 million last year.

Taking time out will allow the foundation to take the show apart and look at ways of re-energising the traditional hall-based static layout. While some levels of interactivity, such as demonstration drives and conferences, were to be included in the 2020 event, these can now be expanded, and the foundation can explore new avenues with exhibitors to draw attendees back, after three years of falling visitor numbers.