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No auto show in Geneva, but the car of the year must go on

How to protect yourself from coronavirus.

As if the climate for automobile shows worldwide wasn’t already depressed — with dwindling attendance and cash-conscious brands pulling their exhibits — the Geneva International Auto Show in Switzerland was called off this year over coronavirus fears.

Despite the cancellation, and with essentially neither press nor public present, the European Car of the Year was announced Monday at the Palexpo convention center in Geneva: the Peugeot 208.

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Considered a “supermini” in Europe, the 208 is cute and cuddly in a French way, with dynamic driving abilities, and is available with not just a gasoline or a diesel engine but also a battery-electric drivetrain. A jury of 58 European automotive journalists selected it from among seven finalists, which included the Tesla Model 3, the Porsche electric Taycan and Ford’s compact SUV, the Puma. (Nominated cars don’t have to come from Europe but must be available for purchase in at least five European countries.)

The event, available only as an online stream, had a rather eerie aura about it, like a soccer match without the crowd (another effect of the coronavirus). Normally at the ceremony, hordes of journalists fill the Palexpo hall, eating hors d’oeuvres and sipping sparkling wine. This year, only the seven cars and the jury’s president, Frank Janssen, were in the hall.

Geneva’s organizers, in consultation with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and other agencies, had decided Friday to cancel. Even before then, a number of brands, including Volvo, Jaguar, Ford and Peugeot, had announced that they’d be no-shows. Nonetheless, it was known that several model premieres, including the eighth-generation Volkswagen GTI, the BMW Concept i4 and the new Mercedes-Benz E class, would be revealed at Geneva. Some of the unveilings were streamed from the manufacturers’ websites Tuesday.

More than 600,000 visitors had been expected during the show’s 10-day run.

At the moment, the organizers of the New York International Auto Show, scheduled to open April 8 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, and of the Detroit show in June say they are moving forward. A statement from the New York show organizers said they were focusing on in-depth cleaning of “high-touch” areas at the convention center and planning to keep a team of paramedics on site. To date, 18 news conferences are scheduled for the media days.

The New York event is also scheduled to host another ceremony, the finals of the 2020 World Car Awards. It’s a reminder that there’s no shortage of automobile awards for new models. While the European award is often considered one of the more discriminating, scads of prizes and “10 best” citations are bestowed by newspapers, blog sites and magazines. Organizations that give a “car of the year” nod also include the Car of the Year Japan, the Irish Car of the Year and the German Golden Steering Wheel trophy. Like the Oscars and the Grammys, the awards are intended, in part, to promote and sell a product.

Among the 10 cars that have been shortlisted for World Car Award were the VW Golf, the Mazda3 and Mazda CX-30, the Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Sonata. The judges will also select the best car in four other categories: urban car, luxury car, performance car and design.

c.2020 The New York Times Company

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