We’ve heard of smart cars and autonomous cars. But after the devastation that Covid-19 has wrought on societies and industries worldwide, the world may now be ready for “healthy” cars.
It could be the next big thing in automotive engineering and design, after the pursuit of performance and safety. The automotive R&D has somewhat expanded its focus to creating vehicles that would also be protective bubbles for its occupants. In other words, the race for virus-free mobility is on.
Geely Automobile International Corp (GAIC) has expressed its intentions of investing in what it calls “healthy cars’. Being one of the most aggressive global brands that has also been heavily invested in autonomous, connected, and electrified vehicles, the Chinese automaker has set its sights on virus-proofing its future vehicles.
“The pandemic has put forward a new requirement for the whole auto industry: Develop a car that can protect its users’ safety and health. At the beginning of the pandemic, we quickly invested 370 million RMB in research for the ‘all-round healthy car with virus prevention’,” said Michael Song, general manager for GAIC, in an exclusive interview with this writer.
Song added: “We were also the first Chinese auto brand to install CN95 air purification filters at that time. For us, we have always deeply cared about the health and safety of our customers and their families. I think this is also the urgent need of our customers now.
“In the future, we will continue to focus on the R&D of healthy cars, follow the trend of autonomous, connected, electrified and shared mobility of automobile development and provide global users with products and services that exceed expectations,” said Song.
Three years ago, Geely announced its aim for Level 4 autonomous driving by 2022 with what it calls V2X and 5G support, its automated valet system allowing for total auto parking and auto summon service, and its intention to help transform Hangzhou Bay, Ningbo, into a smart city and autonomous drive test zone. In 2019 in its website, Geely expressed that, as the chief partner to the 2022 Asian Games, it would commit to developing autonomous drive solutions that can be used during the games under the slogan “Enjoy Mobility @ the Asian Games with Geely”. By 2022, Geely Auto should have developed a fully autonomous system that utilizes 5G communications, edge computing and V2X infrastructure technologies to create a driverless environment capable of taking athletes and guests around the event sites.
24-hour online global collaboration
Song admitted that the pandemic had an adverse impact on Geely’s international business.
“The difficulties were mainly in the marketing business. Because of quarantine policies, we couldn’t reach our users and had difficulty holding offline activities. However, we quickly adjusted and took corresponding measures to reduce the risks and provide services to our users as much as possible.”
He stressed, however, that Geely’s product R&D operations never stopped, saying that the company’s “global strategic reserve and collaboration mechanisms are being used very well at this time.”
He added, “We have achieved a 24-hour online collaboration working mechanism, and we are very fortunate to have such a global collaboration mechanism to help us deal with the pandemic. Now our five global design centers and five R&D centers are moving forward as normal, helping us to achieve a lot of success,” he said.
The Geely Group had been manufacturing its own cars before acquiring Volvo Cars from Ford in 2010. Then it also acquired The London Electric Vehicle Company in 2013, and a majority stake in British sports carmaker Lotus Cars in 2017.
Geely was introduced in the Philippines in 2019—after signing a distribution partnership and after-sales service agreement with Japanese conglomerate Sojitz Corporation. It’s marketed and sold in the Philippines through a distribution partnership and after-sales service agreement with Japanese conglomerate Sojitz Corp/Sojitz G Auto Philippines.