Geneva show canceled after coronavirus outbreak spreads in Europe

The Geneva auto show, due to start next week, has been canceled after the Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

“We regret to announce the 2020 Geneva motor show will be canceled. This is force majeure, circumstances over which we have no control,” Maurice Turrettini, chairman of the show’s board of trustees, said at a news conference on Friday.

Organizers said the show will not be rescheduled to a later date. “The show cannot be postponed. It’s not possible. It’s too big. It’s not feasible,” said the show’s director, Olivier Rihs.

The show’s board said the the construction of the stands was nearly completed and dismantling will be organized as of today.

“The financial consequences of this cancelation will have to be examined and evaluated in the coming weeks,” it said. People who have already bought tickets will have their money refunded, the board said.

Earlier on Friday Swiss Federal Heath Minister Alain Berset announced that events involving more than 1,000 people were prohibited with immediate effect.

“In view of the current situation and the spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council has categorized the situation in Switzerland as ‘special’ in terms of the Epidemics Act,” the cabinet said after a meeting. “Large-scale events involving more than 1,000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March.”

The move aims to avoid crowds congregating in confined places such as concert and exhibition halls and public celebrations. It will not, at least for now, apply to train stations and shopping malls where people have only fleeting contact, officials said.

Glitzy debuts

The Geneva show is one of Europe’s glitziest and biggest auto exhibitions, with a high proportion of luxury and sports models on display. It was first staged in 1905 and last canceled during World War 2 and its aftermath.

The show was scheduled to start on Tuesday with a media day for new product debuts. It was due to open to the public from March 5 to 15.

Top executives from automakers spanning Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW to Honda and Toyota usually attend the Geneva show, which spans 10 days. Car companies had already begun withdrawing staff from the event earlier this week after the virus became more widespread in Europe.

The show’s cancellation comes after the wireless industry earlier this month scrapped the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and the Beijing auto show, scheduled for April, was postponed.

The coronavirus outbreak began in China and has spread to 52 countries and territories, with Italian cases centered on northern provinces that border Switzerland.

Geneva is home to the World Health Organization, which is fighting the epidemic. The city is a three-hour drive from Turin, where Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has an operational base.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has risen to 15, and more than 100 people are in quarantine.

Italy remains the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe.

Cases in the country soared to 650 on Thursday from 400 a day earlier. The first measures to support the most affected areas may be approved by the Italian government as early as Friday, Economic Development Minister Stefano Patuanelli said.

The country is considering subsidies to help pay utility bills as well as mortgage-payment suspensions.

German infections rose to nearly 60, while the first two cases in the Netherlands were confirmed. The Dutch patients, who are being kept in isolation, recently visited Italy’s Lombardy region. Globally, there are over 83,000 cases, including more than 700 in Europe.

A crisis task force in Germany will meet on Friday afternoon in Berlin to discuss next steps, including the possibility of canceling the ITB tourism trade fair.

Font: Automotive News Europe

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