The Geneva Motor Show, which was poised to start next week, has been canceled. The Beijing auto show has been “postponed.”
And now the coronavirus, whose spread led to those two decisions, is also forcing leaders of April’s New York International Auto Show and June’s Detroit auto show to answer questions about their respective plans.
For now, organizers of both the New York and Detroit auto shows say they are planning to hold their shows while taking necessary precautions to protect attendees.
“With just under six weeks to go before the 2020 New York International Auto Show’s press preview days, we are moving forward with plans to open the show as scheduled,” show organizers said Friday in a statement. “We are in communication with state and local officials and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and, at this point, there are no plans to cancel any shows at the facility.”
He said the convention center “is taking precautionary measures inside the venue to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, and the New York Auto Show will follow its lead to protect exhibitors and attendees.”
Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit auto show, officially known as the North American International Auto Show, said in a statement to the USA TODAY Network’s Detroit Free Press: “We are closely monitoring the latest information about the novel coronavirus and are reviewing our policies and procedures. We remain optimistic that these health issues will be resolved before the 2020 NAIAS occurs in June.”
The Detroit auto show is moving to June this year for the first time. It was previously held in January.
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The Swiss decision to cancel the Geneva auto show came fewer than 96 hours before it was scheduled to open Monday.
Automakers typically spend weeks building display sites and planning vehicle reveals for auto shows, so a show cancelation could lead to losses. A press conference at a major auto show can cost more than a million dollars, according to industry experts.
Mark Truby, a spokesman for Ford Motor Company, said Ford had no plans to display vehicles at the Geneva show this year and “Beijing was canceled well in advance, so we were able to avoid significant sunk costs.”
General Motors had no plans to show any new vehicles at Geneva but did plan a presence at the Beijing show, said GM spokesman Pat Morrissey.
“The health and safety of all involved needs to be the top priority,” he said. “There will always be other opportunities to showcase products and technology.”
Rick Deneau, spokesman for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said of the Geneva show cancelation: “While unfortunate, the safety of our employees, the media and show organizers has to take precedent. We are evaluating alternative ways to deliver vehicle launches that were planned for the shows.”
The Geneva move came as Switzerland officials banned events expected to draw more than 1,000 people. That restriction is scheduled to last at least through March 15.
John McElroy, a longtime industry observer and host of “Autoline After Hours,” said auto shows are not as relevant as they were just a few years ago. Still, they play a key role in marketing and present important opportunities for shoppers.
“The effect of the coronavirus on production and sales was going to be bad enough,” he said, “and canceling auto shows just makes it worse.”