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Carmakers on alert as shows put on hold amid COVID-19 spread

Visitors watch a vehicle launch event during the Busan International Motor Show 2018. (Busan International Motor Show)
Visitors watch a vehicle launch event during the Busan International Motor Show 2018. (Busan International Motor Show)

With global motor shows either being delayed or likely to be called off due to coronavirus concerns, automakers are likely to face setbacks in their plans to unveil their latest models, according to industry sources Sunday.

Organizers of Asia’s largest auto event, Beijing Motor Show slated for April 21-30, have announced that it has been “indefinitely delayed.” 

The event has been “postponed until further notice,” and a decision will be taken after closely watching the progress of the coronavirus outbreak, they said. 

As of Sunday morning, the death toll from the virus in China reached 2,345, with Beijing alone reporting 396 confirmed infection cases as of Saturday. 

South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor and its sister company Kia Motors were set to participate in the auto show. They hoped to promote their new models in the world’s largest automotive market, but now have to defer their plans. 

Market insiders said their production plans in China are also likely to be revised.

Last year, China recorded 340 million registered vehicles, including 21 million cars newly registered that year. 

On Feb. 12, the Mobile World Congress Barcelona was canceled for the first time in its 33-year history, roiling automakers who were preparing to roll out new autonomous driving technologies and business plans. 

MWC organizer GSMA canceled the event because of international concerns and travel advisories. The event attracts over 100,000 visitors from 200 countries, including some 6,000 Chinese visitors annually. 

Kia had announced that it planned to reveal its strategy for future vehicles at MWC, as well as the automation-based purpose based vehicle. 

Industry insiders are now paying attention to whether the Geneva Motor Show will be put on hold. Slated to kick off March 5, the 10-day event opens the auto show season in Europe. 

Hyundai plans to unveil the i20 at the event, targeting European customers, while Kia will exhibit the fourth-generation new Sorento. Mercedes-Benz intends to roll out a face-lifted version of its midsized sedan E-Class at the event. 

However, big-names such as Ford, Cadillac, Nissan, Citroen and Jaguar-Land Rover have already pulled out, citing cost savings. 

Domestic motor shows and related automotive events are keeping a close watch on the situation. 

Foreign carmakers have kept silent about whether they will participate in the biennial Busan International Motor Show slated for May 28 to June 7. 

According to the organizer, only BMW, Mini and Cadillac have registered to participate. Last year’s event was joined by 11 imported carmakers, including Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Audi. 

With coronavirus infections surging here in the past week, other events also face uncertainty, including EV Trend Korea, slated for April 2-5 in Seoul, and 2020 Seoul E-Prix Formula E, scheduled to take place in Seoul on May 3. 

Meanwhile, the country’s first hydrogen mobility energy event, H2 Mobility+ Energy Show 2020, will take place as planned on March 18 in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province, the organizer said. 

Authorities said they will strengthen quarantine measures with doctors stationed at the venue during the event. But market insiders voiced concerns over the low participation rate. 

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)
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