Geneva motor show 2024, Day 6Geneva motor show 2024, Day 6


Opinion: R.I.P. Geneva’s motor show – but it’s the consumers who are the real casualty

Car Dealer’s associate editor mourns the loss of the Geneva International Motor Show and mulls over the repercussions

Time 5:38 am, June 22, 2024

We all knew that it was coming. The crown jewel of motor shows has shut its doors for good – Geneva is dead.

The inevitability doesn’t diminish how sad the official announcement, made at the end of May, was felt by me. I’m unhappy because I think now, more than ever, motor shows are needed.

But before I explain why I think that is, it’s worth remembering why Geneva was so important.

The Swiss show was the first major motor event in Europe of the year. A feature on the calendar since 1905, Geneva saw the leading carmakers, the smaller outfits and the independents all scramble to launch their new models for the year ahead.

Many say Geneva thrived because it was ‘neutral’, and that unlike Paris or Frankfurt that fawned over the domestic brands, Geneva gave everyone an equal footing on non-partisan soil.

There’s certainly more than a grain of truth in that; to me, the show always felt fairer.

But then Covid arrived. Fewer carmakers had signed up for the 2019 running and the same was looking likely for the 2020 event. But even so, it was due to go ahead.

However, with the pandemic ripping through Europe in the early part of 2020, it was inevitable that the Geneva show would be cancelled that year – it was the only thing to do.

And yet no decision was made until the very last minute.

Unlike other events that managed to find a way of opening their doors again in 2021, Geneva wasn’t so lucky. It even struggled to do so in 2022 and 2023, and the writing seemed very much on the wall.

The organisers managed to spin the event in Qatar last year, but it looked like the original was back for 2024.

However, you’ll no doubt know that this year’s show – held once again in its eponymous city – was an embarrassment.

Gravestone – Geneva Motor Show

Geneva’s motor show is gone and its loss is keenly felt. Image copyright © Blackball Media Ltd 2024

The Chinese carmakers lapped it up and the country’s various brands appeared en masse but most of Europe’s car firms stayed away – Fiat even going so far as to release a number of Panda concept cars online the night before the first press day.

It was like a weird kind of parallel to what was happening in the new car market.

Only Renault capitalised on its European rivals’ refusal to attend and its new 5 grabbed the limelight.

It rightly stole the show, but how much sweeter would it have been if it had been the star in the presence of Stellantis, Volkswagen, Ford and Toyota?

Making the announcement, the event’s boss very much laid the blame at the door of the carmakers for refusing to support the Geneva show.

He said the Munich and Paris shows were enthusiastically supported by the home carmakers and there was no option but to postpone the Geneva show indefinitely.

However, the blame shouldn’t lie with the car firms.

Geneva’s very last-minute cancellation of the 2020 show rightly angered them, with stands built, staff deployed, hotels booked, flights arranged and no refunds on the table. They vowed never to support the show again.

The thing is, carmakers got rather good at launching and selling cars through various lockdowns, so the idea of investing hundreds of thousands of euros in a compact motor show where most brands are given an equal footing doesn’t make commercial sense.

But while the car brands’ bosses’ pride was pricked by the 2020 cancellation and journalists lost out on a free ski trip (manufacturers traditionally liked to entertain their media guests by combining the show with a ski trip in Alpine resorts), I think the real casualty is the consumer.

There has never been a greater need to help consumers choose their next car and for the traditional carmakers to show off their wares as a tidal wave of Chinese cars arrives.

Yet there is now no show on ‘neutral’ ground like Geneva any more.

Pictured at top is a scene from this year’s motor show in Geneva

This column appears in the current edition of Car Dealer – issue 196 – along with news, reviews, features and much more! Read and download it for FREE here!

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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