Until very recently, next week was supposed to be a very big deal in the automotive orbit. The Geneva Motor Show was scheduled to open in Switzerland with a media day on Tuesday. Ordinarily, this is a very big happening. Geneva is one of the world’s great motoring exhibitions, and one of the few shows, including New York, Detroit and Tokyo, that actually still receives significant attention outside the immediate automotive world. It’s a stage where the industry rolls out some of its most significant new cars to immediate global attention. Among the new cars scheduled for introduction in Geneva were the Audi A3 crossover and e-Tron hybrid, a freshened Mercedes-Benz E-class and this item, the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI.
All of that jerked to a halt this week when the organizers of the Geneva show announced its abrupt cancellation, in part due an order by Switzerland’s health minister that all public gatherings of more than 1,000 people are banned nationally through at least the end of March. The Geneva show is so large, and requires so much advance preparation, that rescheduling it for later this year would have been impossible, regardless of how the coronavirus scare shakes out. Automakers and their suppliers, who make up the bulk of the show’s exhibitors, had been pulling staff from the event since a coronavirus outbreak was confirmed in nearby northern Italy. It’s the same kind of response that led both Amazon and Google this week to restrict global travel by their employees. The sudden stop forced a whole range of manufacturers, including Volkswagen, to scramble and reschedule their expected Geneva introductions, a process that’s very much still in progress. The worsening virus emergency has had other automotive consquences, as Liberty Media, which owns Formula 1, saw its stock tank by nearly 4 percent last week, wiping out three years’ worth of capitalization improvements, over worries that a major part of F1’s 2020 schedule could be lost if the coronavirus situation continues to deteriorate. The new Golf GTI, when it’s introduced, will feature a significant output boost to 245hp thanks to its turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter engine, linked to either a six-speed manual transaxle or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.