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THE cancellation of this year’s annual Geneva Show highlights a unique set of circumstances faced by the automotive industry in 2020.

Tightening of emission rules, uncertainty over Brexit and any trade implications plus, completely out of the blue, the Coronavirus – the reason for the Geneva Show cancellation.

This is now starting to have a knock-on effect, car companies are gradually starting to hunker down, travel restrictions for staff are being put into place and some high profile model launches are being canned.

Ford has cancelled its Kuga press launch in Faro, Portugal while Mercedes-Benz has decided against a Stuttgart premier for its Vito and eVito  models. Others will no doubt follow.

Depending on how the Coronavirus develops one of the next big UK industry events, the Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC in Birmingham in April, might come under scrutiny.

The spread of the virus is an added complication for the industry.

Rather than sitting on the show stand in Geneva this week, we had a telephone interview with Kia UK President Paul Philpott whose brand continues to buck the downward sales trend in the UK.

Having broken its own sales record again last year with UK sales of 97,300 – up 1.5% in a market down 2.4% – he is surely looking forward to bursting through the 100K mark in 2020.

No.

Philpott expects a further decline in the market this year. He said: “There is still a lot of uncertainty over trade tariffs at the end of the year while we have to make sure we are on the right flight path towards achieving EU targets of 95g average emissions.”

To that end, Kia UK will this year tweak its offerings from 1 in 10 vehicles being electrified (hybrid, PHEV and full electric) last year to one third.

He added: “As we make that change I see similar volumes to last year from our perspective. We may also be affected by supply issues given the impact of the Coronavirus in the Far East.”

That virus could have far reaching consequences: Motor shows in developed countries have been under scrutiny for some time as carmakers pull back from attending due to concern over the eye-watering cost of exhibiting along with falling visitor numbers.

Most of the this year’s Geneva press conferences and reveals were put out over the web – is that the way forward?

Discuss.


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