New York auto show postponed for first time since WWII over coronavirus

CNBC: 2019 NYAutoShow: Jaguar i-Pace Ian Callum

Organizers of the New York International Auto Show are postponing the 12-day conference until late-August due to the evolving coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. — the first time the annual event has been rescheduled since WWII.

The public show, which was set to begin early next month, is now scheduled for Aug. 28 through Sept. 6, the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, which owns and operates the show, announced Tuesday.

“We are taking this extraordinary step to help protect our attendees, exhibitors and all participants from the coronavirus,” Mark Schienberg, president of the dealer group, said in a statement.

Founded in 1900, the show hasn’t been canceled or otherwise rescheduled since WWII, organizers said.

“It was cancelled during WWII for two years. No other postponements or cancellations that we’re aware of,” said Chris Sams, spokesman for the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.

The show is one of the industry’s premier annual events, drawing more than 1 million visitors who come to gawk at the latest designs and some of the world’s fastest and most expensive cars.

The postponement of the show comes at a precarious times for the auto industry, which has been dealing with vehicle production and supplier disruption issues as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak for months. It also adds to challenging times for auto shows, many of which have been losing momentum and automaker attendees in recent years.

Automakers have historically used auto shows to debut their newest and greatest products, however many have moved to offsite events due to logistics and costs. It’s unclear at this time how many of the automakers that were expected to debut more than 50 vehicles at the New York auto show will postpone those announcements until August. Automakers typically have set timelines for when the vehicles debut before going on sale.

GP: General Motors Cadillac logo 170411
A worker wipes the logo of the General Motors Cadillac brand display ahead of the New York International Auto Show.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Spokespeople with some automakers previously told CNBC that they were working on contingency plans for the show following the cancellation of the Geneva auto show earlier this month due to the virus.

Rick Deneau, a spokesman for Fiat Chrysler, Tuesday said the Italian-American automaker is “looking closely at other alternatives.” He declined to elaborate. Other automakers did not immediately respond for comment.

Following the cancellation of the Geneva auto show, many automakers moved to remote debuts with online video streams to unveil their products.

The New York auto show annually creates more than $330 million in economic benefits for the city and state, according to show officials.