Geneva, Switzerland – The company that runs the Geneva Motor Show exhibition hall wants to stage a show in 2021 despite the organisers cancelling the event.
The director of the Palexpo Exhibition Centre told Automotive News Europe that the risk was too great to wait until 2022 for the next iteration of the formerly annual event.
"From what I know in the trade show business, if we lose the date it's too difficult to come back," Palexpo director general Claude Membrez told ANE in an interview.
The Geneva show has been hit by internal division since the 2020 event was abruptly cancelled in March as it became clear how serious the coronavirus pandemic was becoming.
The Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) organisers last week announced the cancellation of the 2021 event due to lack of interest from automakers. In a press conference on 29 June, the foundation set up to run the show said it would seek to sell the event to Palexpo for CHF15 million (€14 million).
"We heard they wanted to the sell the show to us, but this was the first time we heard the amount and the amount is huge!" Membrez said. He questioned why Palexpo should pay CHF15 million for an event that would not take place in 2021 and for a few years after likely would be 35% smaller because auto shows are becoming less popular.
Membrez said any decision to buy the show would be made by the Palexpo board, which he expected would meet within the next two weeks to discuss it. Palexpo currently has a contract with GIMS to stage the event, which accounts for around a third of Palexpo's annual revenue.
The Geneva auto show is Switzerland's largest event, generating about CHF200 million in income for the city, the authorities have said.
Palexpo was built in 1981 to house the auto show and the centre has expanded to 106,000 square metres since this time as the show grew bigger.
"We, all of us, are children of the car show, which is why we are annoyed," Membrez said. "Without the show we are 40,000 sqm too big."
Palexpo is 80% owned by the Geneva State authority. The authority has a significant interest in seeing the show return in 2021 because of the huge amount of income in generates for the local businesses.
GIMS' refusal to stage a 2021 show was the reason it turned down a CHF17-million bailout loan from the Geneva State authority, which had made staging a show in 2021 a condition of the loan.
The GIMS's subsequent decision to both refuse the loan and then disband after selling the show has puzzled Palexpo. "It's really really weird," Membrez said. "We don't understand what they have in mind. If they have something in mind it has to be really complicated because we don't understand it."
GIMS has said it wanted to use CHF11 million of the loan to reimburse exhibitors that were left out of pocket when the 2020 event didn't go ahead.
Membrez said GIMS would have been able to reimburse exhibitors if it had accepted the loan. "They refused the loan. It's really confusing," he said.
Palexpo is prepared to accept a smaller show in 2021, Membrez said, going against the wishes of GIMS.
A pared-down show could hasten the end of event altogether, the director general of GIMS, Sandro Mesquita, told Automotive News Europe in May: "It's important that the next show is good one and not a small, reduced one," he said.
"That is not what the brands are expecting, if they are coming to Geneva. It's because it's a big international motor show and not a small regional show."
Membrez said that a smaller show is better than no show at all. "Sandro is right, it's a risk," he said. "But we think the risk of not doing anything is bigger."