The Peugeot 208 has been anointed Car of the Year this year in Geneva.
Organisers pressed ahead with the Car of the Year ceremony today after the show was axed at the last minute on Friday over growing coronavirus concerns.
This year’s finalists included the BMW 1-Series, Ford Puma, Porsche Taycan, Renault Clio, Tesla Model 3, and the Toyota Corolla.
Presenting to an empty hall that would normally have been packed with journalists, Car of the Year jury president Frank Janssen noted that: “It’s a bit awkward that the Palexpo building is almost empty.”
“The decision of federal government was clear—we had no choice, we had to cancel,” GIMS director Olivier Rihs said on the stage today. It would have been the show’s 90th anniversary.
The winner is chosen by a jury of 60 motor journalists from 23 countries, with carmakers keen to be one of the finalists, as the award can pump their sales. The award has been handed out every year since 1964.
Virtual motor show
Carmakers have been scrambling since Friday to organise live-streamed launches of the new models that would have graced the stands at Geneva this week.
Big brands, including BMW, Aston Martin, Daimler, and Porsche, have already issued links to digital launch presentations, for what will now be a virtual press day on Tuesday.
The Geneva show, one of the most important events in the global automotive calendar, was due to host 150 exhibitors and 90 global or European car premieres this year.
On Friday, the Swiss government however instigated a ban of gatherings of 1,000 or more people, effective immediately. The country has reported over 20 cases of the virus, some of those who tested positive had recently been in Italy, where coronavirus is spreading fast—cases jumped by 50% over the weekend to nearly 1,700 and 34 deaths from the virus.
GIMS chairman Maurice Turrettini on Friday called the show’s cancellation “a case of force majeure and a tremendous loss for the manufacturers who have invested massively in their presence in Geneva.”
Pictures from the weekend showed workers breaking down the manufacturers’ stands in the Palexpo exhibition centre, and cars standing forlornly shrouded in their wraps.
The financial blow from the last-minute cancellation of GIMS will do nothing to buck the trend of carmakers deserting traditional motor shows in favour of exclusive launch events, many online, or investing in going to tech shows like CES instead.