The announcement of the European Car of the Year usually is a high-profile, high-energy event. Journalists, industry execs and car buffs fill a hall at the Geneva International Auto Show, where they dine on hors d'oeuvres and sip sparkling wine while awaiting the big announcement.
Not this year. With the annual show in Switzerland called off over coronavirus fears, only the nominated cars and the jury's president, Frank Janssen, were in the Palexpo convention center for the big reveal.
The winner: the Peugeot 208.
Considered a "supermini," 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 announcement, made via online streaming, had a rather eerie aura about it. Adding to the strange feeling was the fact that Peugeot — along with a number of brands, including Volvo, Jaguar and Ford — had announced that they'd be no-shows even before the Geneva organizers decided to cancel.
Nonetheless, several model premieres were still slated to be revealed at the March show, including the eighth-generation Volkswagen GTI, the BMW Concept i4 and the new Mercedes-Benz E class. When the show's organizers, in consultation with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and other agencies, called off the event, those unveilings were streamed from the manufacturers' websites.
More than 600,000 visitors had been expected during the show's 10-day run.
Next up on the calendar was supposed to be the 2020 World Car Awards, which were going to be part of the New York International Auto Show, which was scheduled to open April 10 but has been moved to August.
The group overseeing the awards reportedly is considering its options about how it will proceed.
Although the changing dynamics of these events is disappointing to those who look forward to them, there is 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.
Among the 10 cars that were shortlisted for the World Car Award are the VW Golf, Mazda3 and Mazda CX-30, Kia Telluride and Hyundai Sonata. The awards also honor the best car in four other categories: urban car, luxury car, performance car and design.