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Chinese Car Maker Geely to Develop a Car That Prevents Viruses
COVID-19 and China
Image Credit: Geely Automobile

Zhejiang-based car manufacturer Geely Holding Group announced that its subsidiary, Geely Automobile (吉利汽车, 00175:HK), will engage in the development of a range of cars equipped with a virus prevention function, laying out an investment of CNY 370 million (equivalent to USD 53 million).

Geely's move can be seen not only as a support for the Chinese government in its combatting of the coronavirus epidemic (2019-nCoV), but also a strategic marketing plan to mitigate an eventual car sales decrease in the future.

According to the announcement, the 'all-around healthy car' will present distinguishing features comparable to professional medical vehicles. The new model will also be equipped with the existing smart materials of Geely cars, such as surfaces and filters that remove harmful substances and purify the air inside the car.

One of the main functions of the new Geely model will be the car's added ability to neutralize bacteria by spraying bacteriostatic and antibacterial substances through the vehicle.

Despite not referring to any cooperation with other carmakers or giant investors like Alibaba or Baidu, Geely will probably rely on Baidu technology for the new model. For instance, at the 2019 Baidu Create AI Developer Conference, the carmaker announced a strategic cooperation with internet giant Baidu (BIDU: Nasdaq) with the focus on autonomous driving, intelligent furniture, and e-commerce. Besides, it also announced that all Geely cars would be equipped with an intelligent interactive system named GKUI19, which is supported by Baidu AI. 

At the moment, there’s no precedent of any carmaker developing passenger vehicles with the ability to prevent the virus; Geely apparently sees this moment as a good one to show its capacity and innovative ideas. 

Nevertheless, the current China epidemic situation might take months or even years to be contained and solved. As a consequence, car manufacturers might suffer reductions in sales in the short term due to a shortage of demand, and consumers might change their tastes, stoked by the fear that a similar situation might occur again. Hence, an 'all-around healthy car' looks like it has the great potential to become a trend.

The Geely Holding Group claims to have generated about USD 6.8 billion in revenue in the first half of 2019. The commercial venture of the virally resistant car is not the company’s only reaction to the crisis.  

The group also joined hands with Geely founder Li Shufu’s Public Welfare Foundation (李书福公益基金会) on January 28 to set up a special fund of CNY 200 million to fight the current coronavirus epidemic. The money will be used to purchase urgently needed medical supplies such as masks, disinfectants, goggles, and ventilators, and to support the construction of temporary hospitals in the affected areas, according to the company.

Editor: Luke Sheehan

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