Geneva auto show may be back in 2021


The Geneva auto show may return in March 2021 as a three-day, media-only event.

Automakers are being offered an all-inclusive package that covers the cost of their stands and accommodations for guests, according to documents seen by Automotive News Europe.

No automaker has confirmed participation so far and local health authorities would need to give their approval.

The annual event’s 2021 edition was canceled in June by the show’s official organizers, the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) Foundation. They cited a lack of interest from automakers and the threat of having to cancel the event for the second year in a row because of the coronavirus crisis.

This new, much smaller event would be staged by the management of Palexpo, the venue on the outskirts of the Swiss capital where the show is held.

“This period of transition presents an opportunity for us to reinvent our profession, evolve our events and create new platforms for bringing people together both in person and virtually,” Palexpo officials said in a brochure for the 2021 event seen by ANE.

Palexpo officials could not be reached for comment about the brochure.

If a March event in Geneva gets the go-ahead it would come just before a compressed calendar for U.S. shows.

The Los Angeles Auto Show, which had been scheduled to run Nov. 20-29, will now take place May 21-31, 2021, pitting it between April’s New York show and June’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The quick succession will force automakers to make tough decisions on which venues get the most significant unveilings.

Public days for the next New York show are set for April 2-11, while the Detroit show is planned for June 19-26. Both shows were canceled this year because of the pandemic.

In the brochure, Palexpo said the combination of physical and virtual activities “will take this event to a whole new level.”

The show’s focus would be 30-minute press conferences held on a central stage and broadcast digitally. That 30-minute time slot would include a 15-minute question-and-answer session.

Trio of choices

Automakers have been offered three packages ranging in price from 150,000 francs to 750,000 francs ($164,730 to $823,620).

The entry package includes a stand with room for one car, accommodations for 10 media guests as well as the use of a fully equipped stage with LED TV wall, rotating platform and customizable branding.

The most expensive package provides room for four cars to be displayed and up to 100 media guests.

Not having to build a stand provides show attendees a “significant reduction” in costs, one automaker executive told ANE on condition of anonymity.

Automakers would also save money because the show’s length would be shortened to three days from 15 and set-up time would shrink to seven days from a month.

In addition, covering the cost of accommodations for media guests would be welcomed as automakers have long complained about Geneva hotels hiking room prices during the event.

New normal

Automakers have pivoted away from traditional auto shows as rising development costs have squeezed budgets and and they have developed effective alternative ways to launch cars through virtual events.

Geneva, however, remains a popular event with automakers that appreciate its smaller scale and ease of access.

“We love Geneva. It’s an intelligible show,” Rolls-Royce communications director Richard Carter told ANE. “It’s the only [non-Chinese] show we would like to stay at, at least for the next few years.”

Rolls-Royce, however, has not said whether it would attend the 2021 event.

Chain reaction

The cancellation of this year’s Geneva show because of the coronavirus set off a chain of events that led the GIMS Foundation to call off the 2021 event, wind up its operations and offer to sell the show’s rights to Palexpo.

While Palexpo officials declined to confirm whether they now own the rights to the show, an official at the exhibition center recently said he believes that canceling the 2021 event would be too risky.

“From what I know in the trade show business, if we lose the date it’s too difficult to come back,” Palexpo Director General Claude Membrez told ANE in July.

But officials at the GIMS Foundation believe holding a smaller Geneva show sends the wrong message.

“It’s important that the next show is good one and not a small, reduced one,” GIMS Foundation Director General Sandro Mesquita told ANE in May. “That is not what the brands are expecting. If they are coming to Geneva it’s because it’s a big international motor show and not a small regional show.”

The Geneva auto show is Switzerland’s largest event, traditionally generating about 200 million francs in income for the city, the authorities have said.

Palexpo, which was built in 1981 to accommodate the auto show, was subsequently expanded over the years to 106,000 square meters as the show grew bigger.

Palexpo is 80 percent owned by the Geneva state authority.

Automotive News contributed to this report.

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