The Geneva Motor Show ends its 100-year history


Zhang Dongmei


Due to the pessimistic expectations about the size of the organization of the next auto show, the organizers decided to stop the European auto world event, and the century-old Geneva International Auto Show (GIMS) in Switzerland came to an end. "After careful consideration and due to ongoing industry challenges and competition, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue the Geneva Motor Show," the organizers announced on May 31. The announcement was greeted with regret by the auto industry and fans.


01 From glory to decline


It is reported that the first Geneva Motor Show was held exactly 100 years ago in 1924, but in fact the history of the show can be traced back to 1905, when the official name of the show was the Swiss National Car and Bicycle exhibition, which was successfully held three times in 1905-1907, before being cancelled. Until 1924, a few years after the end of the First World War, the auto show was revived in the name of the "Geneva International Auto Show in Switzerland", and gradually developed and grew out of control.


The fame of the Geneva Motor Show is closely related to its special geographical location. Switzerland doesn't make cars, but it does have the advantage of being located between Germany, France and Italy. After the end of World War II, the world automobile industry has experienced decades of development and prosperity, the Geneva Auto Show once gathered the world's most innovative design, the most cutting-edge technology, known as the "international automobile trend vane". Many shining star models in the history of the world automobile have chosen to debut on this stage at the Geneva Motor Show, such as the Porsche 356, Jaguar E-Type, Ferrari 250, Lamborghini Countach and so on.


For a long time, the Geneva Motor Show, along with the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany (now the Munich Motor Show), the North American Auto Show in the United States, the Tokyo Motor Show in Japan, and the Paris Motor Show in France, was called the world's top five auto shows. The Geneva Motor Show is also the only large-scale auto show held every year in Europe, and is regarded as the event of the European auto industry, with as many as 120 exhibitors and about 600,000 visitors at its peak.


The 2020 Geneva Motor Show has been cancelled just before its opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, in 2021 and 2022, the Geneva Motor Show was cancelled almost at the last minute due to the spread of the virus and the ensuing economic recession. The 2023 Geneva Motor Show is finally back, but not in Geneva, but far away in Qatar.


The 2024 Geneva Motor Show finally returned to the homeland, but after four years of absence, the top auto show that once ranked among the world's top five auto shows has lost its former appeal, the exhibition situation can be described as "bleak", the public is familiar with the exhibitors only SAIC and Zhiji, BYD, Renault, Lucid, Isuzu and other few, the audience is less than 170,000 people. It can be said that it is the "most quiet" auto show in history. Organizers had hoped for a revival at the next edition, but the feedback they received was not positive and they decided to end the Geneva Motor Show.


"Against a difficult backdrop for the industry, manufacturers have shown a lack of interest in the Geneva Motor Show. "The competition from the Paris and Munich motor shows, which are supported by their respective domestic automotive industries, and the investment required to sustain such an exhibition, put the final nail in the coffin for the future of the Geneva Motor Show." Alexandre Senarkron, chairman of the standing committee of the International Motor Foundation, which organises the Geneva Motor Show, lamented.



02 Traditional auto shows need to save themselves


The closure of the Geneva Motor Show marks the end of an era, but its influence will live on in the Middle East and the brand name will remain with its cartel branch.


In 2021, the organizers of the Geneva Motor Show signed a ten-year agreement with the Cartel Tourism Board to host the Geneva Motor Show in Qatar every two years starting in 2023. In October 2023, the first Qatar Geneva Motor Show was held at the Doha Convention and Exhibition Center, attracting more than 30 mainstream automotive brands. Today, although the Geneva Motor Show is discontinued in Switzerland, the Middle East rich who bought this big IP are not affected, and the second Geneva Motor Show in Qatar will be held at the end of November 2025.


The end of a century-old automobile event can not help but make people feel sorry, and the future trend of traditional auto shows is also worth discussing. The epidemic pushed the accelerator button on the Geneva Motor Show's decline, but it also seems unreasonable to blame it entirely. As early as 2019 and before, mainstream car companies have begun to largely miss traditional auto shows in Europe and the United States, forcing the latter to constantly change. For example, the North American Auto Show, which is traditionally held in January each year, was changed to September in the first two years in order to avoid the edge of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but the effect is not good, the organizers have decided that the North American Auto Show in 2025 will return to January. Frankfurt Motor Show will be held in Munich. The Tokyo Motor Show was renamed "Japan Mobility Show" and significantly increased the display of non-automotive industries, as well as start-ups seeking to innovate.


The decline of traditional auto shows, including the Geneva Motor Show, is also a microcosm of the change in the global auto industry. With the development of electric vehicles, autonomous driving and other technologies, as well as the rise of online exhibitions on the Internet platform, the model and role of traditional auto shows are being reevaluated. In addition, many car companies are facing greater economic pressure, such as Stellantis Group after the United States auto workers strike, withdrew from the exhibition.


So will other traditional auto shows follow in Geneva's footsteps? Not necessarily. After all, other large auto shows are basically supported by the domestic auto industry, and through various innovative measures, it must be able to support in the short and medium term.


China Automotive News, June 4, 2024