Axing of Geneva car show forces manufacturers to rethink car launches

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Carmakers were scrambling to reorganise press conferences and vehicle presentations after Swiss authorities forced the cancellation of the Geneva car show on Friday in an effort to contain the coronavirus.

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More than 160 exhibitors were scheduled to show off their cars and services at the 90th Geneva Motor Show, which was due to start on Monday and last until March 15.

BMW BMWG.DE and Mercedes-Benz DIAGn.DE said they would use live-streaming to present the BMW Concept i4 and a revamped Mercedes E-Class respectively.

Ferrari RACE.MI does not plan to arrange alternative events, and Fiat Chrysler FCHA.MI said it had no plan B, but that it was considering ways to show off a new electric Fiat 500.

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

Audi, a premium brand belonging to Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE, said it would seek to use digital channels to launch its Audi A3 sportback and Audi e-Tron S.

Switzerland on Friday banned large events expected to draw more than 1,000 people to try 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.

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 will be refunded, although exhibitors will not, given it was the health authorities, rather than organisers Palexpo, who called off the event.

Reporting by Edward Taylor in Frankfurt, Gilles Guillaume in Paris and Joern Poltz in Munich; Editing by Michelle Martin and Mark Potter