The Geneva Motor Show 2020 has been cancelled by orgnaisers after the Swiss Government took the decision to ban events of more than 1,000 people to help contain the coronavirus outbreak.
An announcement was made by event organisers this morning (February 28), just four days before media from across the globe were set to attend the annual automotive expo's Media Days.
Maurice Turrettini, chairman of the event's Foundation Board, said that organisers accepted the decision of the Swiss government, adding: "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. However, we are convinced that they will understand this decision."
A statement issued by the Swiss government today stated that its ban on large public events would remain in place until at least March 15.
The government said: "The Federal Council's top priority is to protect the population. It is responding to the latest developments in the coronavirus epidemic and has categorised the situation in Switzerland as ‘special' in terms of the Epidemics Act.
"This enables the Federal Council, in consultation with the cantons, to order measures that are normally the responsibility of the cantons."
Among the events in Switzerland that have already been cancelled due to the coronavirus risk are two watch fairs, the Engadin ski marathon and various carnivals, while some ice hockey matches have also been played behind closed doors.
The Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions, which was due to take place at the end of March, was also postponsed by six months due to the coronavirus outbreak in a decision taken on February 17.
Yesterday (February 28), AM reported that organisers of the Geneva Motor Show 2020 had confirmed the annual automotive expo event, which attracts around 500,000 visitors each year, would go ahead despite the outbreak of coronavirus in key car manufacturing nations across the globe.
That decision followed the first case of coronavirus was reported in Switzerland on Tuesday (February 25).
Despite the development, the board of the Geneva International Motor Show Foundation (GIMS) and Palexpo had concluded at the time that the event need not be cancelled.
In a statement issued via the event's official website earlier this week, organisers had said: "Based on the current situation, we have been advised that GIMS can open as planned."
AM understands that many attendees had become increasingly uncertain about their presence at the event, with many manufacturers stating that senior figures from regions affected by the virus would not be attending.
The cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show 2020 will have a significant impact on OEMs keen to use it as another opportunity to showcase their move into electric vehicles (EV).
Among the key new product launches expected to take place at the event this year were those of: the Aiways U5; Audi A3 Sportback; Fiat's first EV, the 500e; Hyundai's new i20;Kia's new Sorento; the new Toyota Yaris; and Volkswagen's next generation of Golf GT models.
Geneva Motor Show organisers said that the financial consequences for all those involved in this year's cancelled event would be "significant".
A statement issued by the body added: "One thing is certain: tickets already purchased for the event will be refunded. The organisers will communicate about this as soon as possible, via their website."