Geneva auto show calls Switzerland quits, relocates to Qatar

Geneva returned to the auto show circuit in 2024 after a long hiatus, but its comeback was short-lived. The organizers have announced that the 2024 edition of the Geneva International Motor Show was a disappointment, notably in terms of participation from carmakers, and they’re throwing in the towel.

Even younger enthusiasts remember when Geneva was the most exciting date on the auto show circuit. Its location helped it achieve this distinction: Switzerland is known for a great many things including chocolate, watches, and a relatively loose tax structure, but “car-making” doesn’t appear on its résumé (unless you count oddballs like Monteverdi). This put everyone on equal footing; the Swiss remained neutral right down to their auto shows. In contrast, the Paris auto show is a French car-fest while the Frankfurt auto show was all about the Germans.

Geneva has also historically been the venue of choice for car companies pegged on the industry’s upper echelons to reveal their latest and greatest models. The Bugatti Chiron made its debut at the 2016 edition of the show. Ferrari presented the LaFerrari there in 2013, and the Porsche 918 Spyder was first shown as a concept in 2010. Pie-in-the-sky startups and stomach-churning tuners had a spot at the show, too, and the focus on high-end cars didn’t detract mainstream brands from attending. The Fiat 500L was one of the 2012 show’s reveals.

The first nail in Geneva’s coffin came in 2020, and it was a big one: Swiss authorities indirectly canceled the show by banning all public and private gatherings attended by over 1,000 people due to coronavirus-related fears. The announcement was made days before the show was scheduled to open; tickets had already been sold and the stands were about 95% assembled. The organizers took a massive financial hit, and they weren’t able to recoup their investment by postponing the show. “There is no plan B possible in the current context,” one said.

Facing a dim future, the organizers decided to cancel the 2021 edition of the show in June 2020. Then, in 2021, the 2022 edition of the show was canned. And, in 2022, the 2023 edition of the show was canceled — or part of it was. The original plan was to hold two Geneva shows in 2023: one in Geneva and one in Doha, Qatar, likely as a way to recover from the financial issues that had plagued the event since 2020. The first not-in-Geneva-Geneva-auto-show opened its doors in the tiny Middle Eastern nation in October 2023 and seemingly went well. We say “seemingly” because we weren’t there: The show had shrunk into a regional event that had lost its spot as a global stage for carmakers.

Geneva returned to its namesake city in February 2024 and realized the world had passed it by. Many brands had turned to cheaper and more effective ways to launch cars, such as hosting standalone reveals, and they shunned the event. European show-goers, who are regularly encouraged not to drive, were mostly absent as well. Nearly 170,000 visitors came to the show in 2024, down from over 600,000 at its peak. 

Switzerland’s final Geneva International Motor Show was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

“This extremely regrettable decision should not detract from the efforts and determination with which we have tried to regain our success. However, it has to be said that the lack of interest shown by manufacturers in the Geneva Salon in a difficult industry context, the competition from the Paris and Munich shows which are favored by their domestic industry, and the investment level required to maintain such a show, sound the final blow for a future edition,” said Alexandre de Senarclens, the organizing committee’s president, in a statement.

Geneva isn’t completely disappearing from the auto show calendar: It’s simply moving to warmer horizons for an indefinite amount of time. The 2025 edition of the Geneva auto show will open its doors in Doha in November 2025. Time will tell whether carmakers will follow.

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