Geneva Motor Show back in 2019Geneva Motor Show back in 2019

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As manufacturers turn to digital reveals, has coronavirus killed off the motor show as we know it for good?

Time 10 months ago

The coronavirus pandemic could have killed off the motor show as we know it for good.

Editorial director of What Car? and Autocar Jim Holder told Car Dealer he thinks motor shows in the modern world will need to be ‘reimagined’.

Speaking to the Car Dealer Podcast in the same week that should have seen the Geneva Motor Show open its doors, Holder said the digital reveals manufacturers have turned to for launching their cars have ‘worked better’.


Holder said: ‘The motor show in the modern world, in a digital world, probably makes less and less sense. 

‘We talk about catalysts out of the crisis and one of the catalysts is probably the demise of the motor show or at least the reimagining of the motor show.’

Asked if he thought the Geneva Motor Show would return, Holder said of all the motor shows it probably had ‘the best chance’, but car manufacturers will now be seriously questioning the money they ploughed into the huge events.

Holder added: ‘Of all the motor shows Geneva has the best chance [of coming back]. Or something like Geneva maybe. 


‘I think the neutrality of Geneva is very appealing or that sort of community where you don’t get the home manufacturers dominating in quite the same regard. 

‘But the flip side would be that Geneva is quite objectionable in some ways in terms of what it charges for its hotels, it’s minimum stays and the cost to manufacturers to try and get their executives there is enormous.

‘Maybe something with the neutrality [of Geneva], but without the excessive cost requirements would be the perfect medium.’

Holder’s outlets have been busy covering manufacturers’ alternatives to the big motor show. 

Volvo, Renault and Jaguar Land Rover have all held separate press events recently and dominated the headlines as a result – something Holder says will be rather attractive to the manufacturers.

Holder said: ‘A lot of manufacturers are really understanding the opportunity that having standalone events presents. 

‘In the last week we’ve seen Volvo have their day in the sunshine and had that been at Geneva they’d have been sharing that with 35 other manufacturers.

‘We’ve seen Renault do that and JLR do it with Bollore and they really can own that space – I think that’s what puts motor shows under pressure.’

While admitting he missed the ‘enjoyment’ of a motor show, Holder said he rarely even got the time to look at the cars being launched, spending most of the event ‘locked in rooms with executives’.

Speaking of the digital alternatives, he added: ‘For us, it’s brilliant. Instead of creating 35 stories to share the limelight on one day, we can create 35 big bangs throughout the course of say three months. 

‘It gives them all a turn in the spotlight to showcase their products to an excited audience.


‘In many regards it does work better.’

During the Podcast, Holder also gave his views on the pent-up demand that his outlets are seeing as the market builds towards showrooms reopening on April 12.

Haymarket Automotive's Jim Holder

Haymarket Automotive’s Jim Holder

He said: ‘Typically in any other year we’d talk about the fire being lit on Boxing Day and it would build up to March and run to about the third week, before it tailed off again to the middle of the year before September.

‘This year it has been very different. What we saw from Boris Johnson standing up and setting out that timeline was that it really set the embers glowing, if not set the fire burning.

‘It is building all the time.

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‘We can see there’s a strong underlying level of interest particularly growing around our reviews at the moment as people are searching. 

‘In a traditional path the reviews would show an uplift first and then that translates to our New Car Buying product and that of course leads directly to dealers and hopefully that is what’s coming.’

You can hear the full Podcast by clicking on the player embedded in this story or search for ‘Car Dealer Podcast episode 12’ on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your favourite podcast platform. 

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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