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WhichCar weekly news wrap

By Tim Robson, 29 Feb 2020 Car News

geneva 2020 cancelled

Coronavirus strikes, Holden's demise and all the news of the WhichCar week

I found myself in a bit of a weird spot on Saturday morning… my two in-cabin bags are packed for a week on the road in Europe (check-in luggage? Phhht) for a trip that departed the following morning… but I wasn't sure I was actually going or not.

Global consternation over the coronavirus outbreak is quickly turning into something closer to a mild panic, and large-scale public events like the Geneva Motor Show – my ultimate destination – appeared to be under legitimate threat.

But on a quick trip to the USA last week, it seemed to me, at least, that the almost hysterical media coverage wasn't playing out in real life. I saw no more masks on people than usual (and it’s worth noting that gloves are a far better option for avoiding germs, but I digress), and large gatherings of people – the dreaded arrivals hall at Los Angeles, for example – were still the norm.

The virus has taken a heavy toll on many industries, including the automotive sphere, and there is still a bit to play out… but as it happened, the Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1000 people, the Geneva show was cancelled and I, along with thousands of other attendees, was grounded.

Geneva cancelled

There's no likelihood that the show will be rescheduled, so tens of millions of dollars in flights, venue hire, catering, stand construction, vehicle preparation and marketing have been simply torn up. 

It comes at a time, too, when the very viability of motor shows is being questioned in boardrooms around the world by an industry that's both in a sales funk and at an existential crossroads. 

 What happens next? Well, it depends on how seriously the threat of the virus is taken in other parts of the world. As it so happens, the New York Show (below) is the next cab off the rank in April; it's a relatively small affair, but its booking office may find its phone ringing off the hook for spare stand space, especially if the US government continues down its path of 'nothing to fear here folks'.

My best guess? Wait and see. Will the coronavirus outbreak turn into a pandemic? If it does, the New York Auto Show will be a small casualty in the scheme of things, especially if events like the Tokyo Olympics are parked.

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Over at WhichCar this week, the fallout from the Holden closure has seen our teams still hip-deep in news stories and features around the storied brand.

Revelations that PM Scott Morrison met with a dealer group about GM’s purported payouts (there’s an irony there the size of a house) prompted a strong reaction from Holden, while the news that a senate committee inquiry has been instigated brought strong reactions from our readers.

As well, our teams answered the basic questions about what’s next for Holden owners, and we also took a swing at guestimating what cars the embryonic GM Special Vehicles division might bring in.

 GMC Sierra 1500

GM Sierra 1500

Overall, though, it’s been a week where the realisation that we’ve lost an iconic brand has really started to hit home. Glenn’s editorial last week really hit a nerve with a lot of people, who shared some amazing stories around their time with the brand.

The biggest story of the week by far, though, was around a five-year-old beat-up engineering mule known as Blackjack, famous for the fact that its front and rear ends came from a Holden Commodore VE ute.

For me, it symbolised the demise of a once-great union and the desperate waste of amazing talent that made cars like the VE into world-beaters.

On the brighter side, we found out that BMW is still keen on V8s, investigated whether now is a good time to wait for that new 4x4 dual-cab, waded neck-deep into the new Ford Mustang R Spec, sussed out some of the most ridiculous Tesla mods ever and pondered just why people are so bad at towing.

Of course, WhichCar TV is on the box this Sunday at 4pm on Channel Ten - and debuting on Prime in New Zealand - and our reams of social media feeds are pumping out all the good gear 24/7.