Remember less than a fortnight ago, when the Glastonbury Festival announced it would be cancelling this year’s event, and we all thought: “Well, that seems a bit hasty”?
After all, Glastonbury was scheduled to take place at the end of June. Surely all this would have blown over by then. But now some experts are claiming that we could be dealing with the coronavirus pandemic for at least six months and I suspect a lot of people are wondering if perhaps the whole of 2020 isn’t going to be a write-off.
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Certainly the motorcycling calendar looks to be severely disrupted. Harley-Davidson International hasn’t yet said anything about the Euro Festival – which is supposed to be taking place next month – but it’s hard to imagine it happening. Hell, it’s entirely possible that many European countries (including Italy, which is home to a very large number of Harley riders) won’t even be allowing their citizens to travel by then. Rallies, meets, shows, ride-outs and get-togethers of all sorts are due to become casualties to this crisis.
I would have thought that major autumn events like Intermot and EICMA would be safe, but lately I’ve started to question that assumption. Intermot and EICMA are Europe’s two biggest motorcycle shows; arguably, they are the two biggest motorcycle shows in the world. Intermot takes place in Cologne, Germany, every other year, whereas EICMA takes place annually in Milan, Italy. Intermot is scheduled to take place 6-11 October this year; EICMA is scheduled to take place 3-8 November.
Already you might be able to see why a person would have questions. Milan and the surrounding Lombardy region has been one of the places hardest hit by coronavirus. No doubt the people of the region will be eager to return to some kind of normality as fast as they can, and hosting major events like EICMA would give a sense of focus while also helping to boost hospitality businesses that will have suffered through the summer. But who knows if Milan will actually be able to do that?
At present, there is nothing on the official EICMA website to suggest its organizers are considering calling off the event. But it should be noted that the site is usually quiet at this time of year. Press accreditation doesn’t even start until September. EICMA’s official Instagram account, meanwhile is filled with messages encouraging people to stay at home and using the hashtag #DistantiMaUniti (Distant But United).
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The medical situation is better in Germany, of course, though the western industrial corridor of which Cologne is part has been one of the country’s hardest hit areas. Koelnmesse, the venue where Intermot is held, is presently closed but a note on the official Intermot website states: “INTERMOT will take place on schedule.”
“The measures in Germany are being fine-tuned on a nearly daily basis,” states the website. “The time limits that apply to all of these measures cannot be foreseen at this point in time… With this in mind, Koelnmesse will use its judgement in the effort to continue to prepare the INTERMOT on the dates already planned as it assesses the situation on an ongoing basis. We will make all decisions for or against implementation of a particular event as early as possible and will, of course, notify all parties involved without delay.”
Whatever happens, though, it KTM (and, by extension Husqvarna) will not be there. The Austrian manufacturer announced late last week that it has decided it will not be attending any trade shows for the rest of 2020. It partially argues that safety is the reason for this, suggesting it doesn’t want to contribute to an atmosphere that sees “hundreds of thousands of visitors gathering in enclosed spaces for a period lasting days and even weeks.”
But, of course, the real reason is that planning for and attending trade shows eats up a lot of resources – both in terms of time and money. Rightly so, the company doesn’t want to risk wasting those resources at a time when things are so incredibly fluid. Especially if the market suffers a downturn, which seems likely.
“Trade shows are key business milestones for the entire motorcycle industry but given the situation, public health and the welfare of our staff are higher priorities over the coming months,” said KTM Chief Marketing Officer Hubert Trunkenpolz. “We have taken this course of action with a great deal of thought and, as a company, KTM AG would be pleased and interested if show promoters, EICMA in particular, would simply consider moving dates to 2021, where we hope and expect the situation to be settled and back to normal.”
That is big. I joked recently that people have a tendency to forget about KTM but the company is, in fact, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Europe. It is important and its absence will definitely be felt. And the fact that it is specifically calling upon EICMA to adjust its dates makes me think other manufacturers might make similar decisions.
In fact, some have. BMW also announced last week that it will not be attending Intermot or EICMA, saying that it plans to rely on its digital platforms to reveal bikes – as it did on Friday with the R18.
“This decision was made in order to counteract current planning uncertainty at an early stage,” BMW said in a statement. “Also for all our partners involved in BMW Motorrad motorshow appearances, in the interests of the greatest possible security, predictability and transparency.”
It’s a good bet that Ducati and Piaggio (which also owns Moto Guzzi and Aprilia) will stay closed for at least another month. I’m sure they, too, would appreciate a reprieve from the trade show schedule. With two major manufacturers having already dropped out and others likely to follow you can’t help but think that things don’t look good for Europe’s biggest moto shows.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom the NHS has announced plans to turn Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre into a 2,000-bed field hospital. The NEC is traditionally the site of Motorcycle Live – currently scheduled to take place 21-29 November – so I’d think questions can be asked about that event, as well. Having a bunch of people in medically induced comas makes a poor atmosphere for selling cheap Chinese-made riding gear. Also, the ExCel Centre, currently housing the NHS Nightingale field hospital is home to the London Motorcycle Show – scheduled for mid-February 202. But if the pandemic drags on that long the economy will have collapsed to the point that no one will be buying motorcycles anyway.