Are ‘anti-virus’ cars in China just a gimmick?

A girl sits in the car while the traffic stops during a silent tribute to those who died of coronavirus in Wuhan.

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Auto manufacturers in China are tapping into health concerns by launching vehicles with anti-virus functionality.

The new models aim to provide the same level of protection inside the cabin by wearing a mask.

Some of the largest automakers in the country have launched new cars with such features including Geely, which also makes London’s black taxis.

China saw vehicle sales plummet in the first quarter of the year due to a nationwide blockade of coronavirus.

Geely was the first brand to launch anti-virus functionality, building on previous work that was appealing to motorists concerned about air pollution in large cities.

Its “Healthy Car Project” aims to prevent small particles from entering the car, potentially protecting drivers and passengers from harmful substances.

Geely is also developing antimicrobial materials to keep his car’s controls and door handles free of bacteria and viruses.

“Consumers spend a lot of time in their cars as a” second home “. Only by producing healthier products can we meet consumer demand for a better quality of life,” said a Geely spokesman. “

The development of features to protect the health of drivers and passengers will become one of its “key long-term development goals”.

As part of Geely’s “contactless” delivery of new cars, she is using drones to pass keys to new customers, directly to their door or balcony to further limit interaction with staff.

SAIC, owner of the iconic British car brand MG, has added an optional feature of an ultraviolet lamp to sterilize the air passing through the car’s air conditioning system.

The rival automaker Guangzhou Automobile, known as GAC, offers a new three-tier air filter system on many of its new models.

Research company Frost & Sullivan believes that these new measures are more than mere gimmicks.

“There is a particular focus on creating health, wellness and well-being functions in the car. The development of these features was already in preparation, but Covid-19 provided more momentum, “said Vivek Vaidya, a mobility expert at Frost & Sullivan.

These features not only address current hygiene and health problems, but could be key differentiating factors for brands and models it believes. “This will not be limited to China, but to a global trend.”

However, Shaun Rein, CEO of the China Market Research Group, disagrees: “Companies are trying to take advantage of Covid-19’s fears to sell products and services to consumers and be able to charge a premium.”

In 2015, Tesla sold cars with pollution control systems that are very popular in China. His “biological weapons defense mode” was aimed at people concerned about air pollution in cities.

“Auto manufacturers are now trying to keep their cars safe from viruses too. I’m not a doctor or scientist, but I would warn consumers to be cautious of any company by saying that their products reduce virus transmission. , especially those Covid-19, “said Rein.

Earlier this month Nippon, a paint manufacturer, said it had developed an anti-virus coating to protect people from collecting surface infections, even though it didn’t specifically call for coronavirus.

The Japanese company said its new VirusGuard paint was designed to be used in hospitals and donated some to four hospitals in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

It comes when Chinese automakers saw sales plummet by more than 80% in February, the biggest decline in the past 20 years. While auto sales in March registered a slight recovery, they still dropped 43% from the same month last year.

The April figure could see continuous improvement as people return to work but remain concerned about public transportation.

“With the physical distance and domestic isolation already rooted in our minds, it is understandable that people are wrong on the side of caution and now they will prefer to travel by car rather than by public or shared transport. This will stimulate demand for cars, “said Gianfranco Casati, CEO of Accenture’s growing markets.

The Chinese government has also helped increase auto sales, such as extending discounts for electric vehicles and trading in older cars with high emissions.

“Our analysis suggests that it will take about three years for auto sales to return to pre-covid-19 levels,” added Vaidya.

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