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Carmakers gear up for Geneva Motor Show amid coronavirus turmoil

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
People at the Ferrari stand at the Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland, on 7 March 2019. (Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images)

Geneva International Motor Show plans to open its doors to the press on Tuesday next week, promising a 90th anniversary show heavy on electric auto debuts, revamped favourites, and exclusive hypercars.

While many important global events have been cancelled over the coronavirus outbreak, including Spain’s Mobile World Congress and the Beijing car show, the Geneva Motor Show (GIMS) organisers are pressing ahead, saying on Wednesday that the situation was being monitored by the Swiss national health authorities.

Geneva car show organisers “are caught on the horns of a dilemma,” according to David Legett from GlobalData. “Issuing health advice for exhibitors and attendees is undoubtedly the responsible thing to do, but it draws attention to the rising level of risk as the crisis spreads in Europe,” he said.

Last week, a GIMS press spokesperson told Yahoo Finance UK that that no exhibitors from China, the epicentre of the virus, had pulled out.

The situation has become much riskier this week, however, after neighbouring Italy reported 12 deaths coronavirus deaths and 400 cases. Switzerland also confirmed its first patient with the virus on Wednesday. Reuters reported that the CEO of Lombardy-based brakes company Brembo will not be attending because of the intensity of the coronavirus in the northern region.

The show, which runs from 5-15 March, attracted 600,000 visitors last year, although a drop in attendees is likely this year as people stay away from big public events.

Every year, more car companies are opting to skip traditional shows and head to big tech fairs like CES in Las Vegas instead, or to invest their launch budgets into exclusive events where they won’t need to compete for attention with other brands.

Jaguar land Rover (TTM), Ford, (F),  and Volvo (VOLV-B.ST) won’t be attending Geneva again this year. The PSA Group, which includes Peugeot, Citroen, and Vauxhall Opel, will also give it a miss, as will Italy’s Lamborghini.

Geneva car show has always been an industry favourite, however, and the one where car bosses love to showcase their new concepts. Despite sliding car sales, Brexit stress, and trade-conflict headaches, Geneva will showcase about 90 global or European vehicle premieres this year.

Electric highlights

Aiways U5 electric SUV. (Aiways)

The strict new European CO2-emissions standards are making it imperative for carmakers to lower their fleet emissions with electric models, and it is no surprise that electric and hybrid cars will be front-and-center at Geneva.

South Korea’s Hyundai will present its new “Prophecy” electric concept car, which it says is part of its new design philosophy of curves, broad rear flanks and a boat-tail backend. France’s Renault will unveil a new electric concept, called “Morphoz.”

The new hybrid Fiat 500 and a fully electric Renault Twingo ZE will go nose-to-nose in the city-runaround category.

Chinese carmaker Aiways has its U5 electric SUV in Switzerland on the stand, which will be available in Europe from April via online leasing. The three-year-old Shanghai-based company plans to kick off with a small production run of just 2,000 cars this year and will target 50,000 per year in the near future. Aiways is also premiering its second electric concept car, the U6ion at the show.

While Volkswagen is going all out to be the volume-brand in electric cars, earmarking €60 bn (£50.2 bn, $65 bn) in investment for electric and hybrid development by 2024, petrol heads will be flocking to the VW stand for another reason: the new VW Golf GTI and GTD.

The company has not said too much so far about the eighth-generation performance Golf, save to release a picture showing the honeycomb front grille and iconic red stripe, and to assure us that “the GTI turbo engine will exceed expectations.”

Hyper-electrics

Czinger 21C hybrid supercar bound for Geneva. (Czinger)

Creators of exclusive and insanely fast cars love to line them up at Geneva. This year, the balance is tipping towards electric and hybrid hyper-cars. Super-fast, wildly expensive, and normally already all sold in advance, these cars are more about showcasing what is possible than informing your next car purchase.

From the UK, Apex will bring a new AP-0 carbon-fibre electric sports car. Croatia’s Rimac is showing its production version of the crazy Rimac C Two supercar.

Californian startup Czinger will blast into town with a hybrid hypercar, the 21C, which is powered by electric motors and a twin turbo V8 engine, delivering 1,250 horsepower.

Germany’s premium players

BMW will unveil the i4 concept plus a trio of hybrids. (BMW)

All eyes will be on BMW’s new i4 electric sedan in Geneva. The Bavarian carmaker is also going heavy on the plug-in hybrids at the show, wheeling out the 300e Touring, the 330e xDrive sedan, and xDrive Touring.

BMW says it is aiming to have more than 1 million electrified vehicles on the roads by the end of next year, and plans to offer 25 electrified models by 2023, more than half of those all-electric.

Rival Daimler will be bringing a bunch of EQ hybrids to the stand in Switzerland. It will also put a new face-lifted Mercedes-Benz E-Class on display, as well as the amped-up AMG GLA 45 SUV and AMG GLE 63 Coupe.  

Daimler has been battling major financial headwinds, recently reporting a huge drop in earnings and profit last year, despite record deliveries. It is in the throes of a massive cost-savings programme that will see it slash tens of thousands of jobs, and is anticipating to be hit with still-more legal costs and fines over the diesel emissions scandal.

Best of British

Aston Martin DBX bespoke Q version. (Aston Martin)

Aston Martin dazzled Geneva year with the reveal of its super-luxury Lagonda SUV concept, a new Vanquish Vision concept, and the Valkyrie AMR Pro. 

But things have not being going so well at all for the iconic British brand. Chief executive Andy Palmer said that the brand had had a “very disappointing year” in 2019, and warned investors to expect a nearly 50% plunge in 2019 earnings.

Still, none of that will be apparent in Geneva, where Aston will present the bespoke Q Version of it DBX SUV, and a new soft-top Vantage Roadster. The roadster’s roof can retract in seven seconds, according to Aston, and its twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 from Mercedes-AMG means 510 horsepower, 0-100 kph in 3.8 seconds, and a top speed of 306 kph.