GENEVA MOTOR SHOW, BASELWORLD AXED AS SWITZERLAND BANS BIG GATHERINGS

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The Geneva Motor Show was cancelled Friday because of coronavirus fears, dealing a fresh blow to an industry already crippled by the outbreak in China.

Baselworld, one of the world’s largest watch fairs, was also called off after the Swiss government announced a ban on public and private gatherings involving more than 1,000 people. The measure, valid through March 15, takes effect immediately.

The Geneva show, which was set to begin next week, is one of the industry’s biggest—and glitziest—events, attracting about 600,000 car lovers over 10 days. Many top companies converge on the Swiss city to show off their newest models.

Maurice Turrettini, chairman of the foundation board for the show, called the cancellation “a tremendous loss for the manufacturers who have invested massively in their presence in Geneva.’’

“The financial consequences for all those involved in the event are significant and will need to be assessed over the coming weeks,” he said.

People who bought tickets in advance will be refunded, he said.

Baselworld, carnival also scrapped  

Technically the ban doesn’t apply to Baselworld, as it was slated to start on April 30. But MCH Group said it preferred to push off the event until next January rather than prepare for an event that may still be called off.

The ban also means the world-famous carnival in Basel won’t take place next week.

The news came as no surprise. Presenters have been pulling out of the motor show in recent weeks as the virus spread beyond China. General Motors withdrew early on, followed by Ford, Jaguar, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and others.

Still, some 150 exhibitors were due to attend, and for the first time an indoor circuit was created to showcase electric cars.

Switzerland recorded its first cases of coronavirus this week. So far 15 people have been diagnosed with the virus. Globally more than 83,000 people have been infected, and more than 2,800 have died. In Europe, Italy has been hardest hit, with more than 600 cases and 17 deaths.

The outbreak, which forced automakers and their suppliers to suspend operations in China for much of this month, comes at a tough time for the industry. Companies were already struggling with slowing sales, falling profit margins and new emission regulations requiring heavy investment in electric cars.

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