Auto Industry Faces Uncertain Threat from Coronavirus in Europe

The cancelation of the Geneva Auto Show didn’t stop European automotive leaders from meeting.  They stayed home and met online instead. Chairman of Mercedes parent Daimler, Ola Kaellenius mentioned the possible ramifications of the coronavirus in live-stream speeches.  BMW and Volkswagen didn’t address the issue.

It’s typical that major brands express their views on the state of the world and economy at these large trade shows, but most of those companies were among those who pulled out this year weeks before the show was canceled. No-shows included Cadillac, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Tesla.  “We are monitoring the situation (with the coronavirus) of course, with day to day management of the situation. Production is back up and running in China, it’s too early to say how this will work out,” Kaellenius said via an online link from the company’s Stuttgart headquarters.

Mercedes had originally planned to launch the new E-class sedan at the Geneva show, but did some online instead. Reuters recently reported that Daimler’s car production in China was stable and supply chains secure, according to Mercedes sales chief Britta Seeger. It was too early to forecast the impact of coronavirus on Mercedes’ sales, according to Seeger.

Germany’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR) has said that German auto companies have annual China business worth about $170 billion, close to 35% of its annual global sales.  They also noted that China’s  business earns high margins, and roughly 40% of German annual auto profits are in danger.

At the online show, BMW unveiled a new electric sedan, the i4, claiming it could travel 400 miles on one charge.  According to GlobalData, “Live-streaming new product presentations may well be seen as a better way forward for manufacturers concerned over the costs and diminishing effectiveness of exhibiting at trade shows.”