The novel coronavirus outbreak, of which Wuhan in China is the epicentre, is the talk of the town, the thing that everyone is worried about. Our neighbouring countries have the highest number of cases outside of China, and the latest news is that a Malaysian has caught the bug while on a business trip in Singapore.

Now, Geely says that to further the fight against the coronavirus, the carmaker has earmarked 370 million RMB (RM218 million) to further the development of “healthy, intelligent vehicles”. It is said that the move not only adds a new dimension to Geely’s understanding of “passenger safety,” it also represents a new development direction for automobiles.

Not to be confused with specialised medical vehicles, Geely is talking about products made for ordinary consumers. The Hangzhou-based company says that cars with comprehensive virus protection not only require the capability to isolate harmful substances in the air, it also needs to quickly and effectively purify cabin air for occupants.

Geely says that its R&D and design networks based in Europe, USA and China will now jointly move to develop and research new environmentally sustainable materials with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, which can be used within air con systems and on frequently touched surfaces such as buttons and handles.

Geely adds that it will cooperate with professional medical and scientific research institutions to set up special project teams to work on this new area.

“Epidemic prevention is a job that requires the long-term effort of wider society. As the most common mode of transportation, consumers spend a considerable amount time in their cars, akin to a ‘second home’. Only by making healthier products can we meet consumer demand for better quality of life,” said An Conghui, president of Geely Holding Group and president/CEO of Geely Auto Group.

“Based on the automotive industry’s development direction built around electrified, connectivity, intelligence, and shared mobility, auto companies should commit to developing products that help protect the health of drivers and passengers. This will become one of Geely Auto key long-term development objectives,” he added.

Late last month, Geely joined hands with the Li Shufu Foundation to set up a special 200 million RMB (RM118 million) fund in support of coronavirus prevention and control, with a focus on the mass purchasing of much needed medical supplies for China in the short term.