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File photo used for representational purpose.
File photo used for representational purpose.

Gizmos can wait: Car makers rush to add virus-fighting technology to woo buyers

  • From engine power to power to fight viruses, many auto makers have changed lanes in their bid to attract customer attention and earn their trust - with or without scientific backing.

In the not so distant past, how a car appears, its engine capabilities, ride comfort and even list of features offered on the inside were some of the key factors that were considered by buyers before deciding on their purchases. Little surprise then that these were also key focus areas for car makers around the world. And while all of that may remain relevant, a new focus area has emerged in current times of Covid-19 - virus-fighting capabilities.

With concerns related to how safe a car is in current times of pandemic, several manufacturers are increasingly looking at equipping their vehicles with technology they claim can keep occupants safe from a long list of viruses and bacteria.

Take the case of Fiat which recently launched 500 Hybrid and Panda Hybrid vehicles in the European markets. High up on the list of highlights prepared for both cars was something called 'D-Fence' package. It consists of a high-performance air filter, purifier and UV light technology to end the possibility of any virus on surfaces like steering, dashboard and seats. While UV light's effectiveness against coronavirus has not been scientifically proven, its promise to act as a germicide killing viruses could influence buyers.

Chinese auto company SAIC, which owns MG brand, also claimed to have equipped some of its cars with a UV lamp. Rival Guangzhou Automobile then claimed its cars have a triple filtration system now.

Geely, owners of Volvo and Lotus, previously claimed Icon, its newly-launched compact SUV, has an advanced filtration system that is capable of air purification and filtering viruses such as coronavirus. The company has further stated that the filtration system is N95-certified. (Read more here)

A paint company also recently stated that it had developed antivirus coating for vehicles.

There is a difference in how experts are looking at these developments. While some claim that sterilization technology for vehicles was in the works for some time and Covid-19 has only quickened the process, others call it marketing gimmicks. "Companies are trying to take advantage of fears of Covid-19 to sell products and services to consumers and to be able to charge a premium," Shaun Rein, MD at China Market Research Group, was quoted as saying in a BBC report. "Auto makers are now trying to position their cars as safe against viruses too. I'm no doctor or scientist, but I'd warn consumers to be cautious of any company saying their products reduce virus transmissions, especially Covid-19 ones."

In India too, some car companies and several services have claimed vehicles can be a safe shelter against harm from viruses. Some of the newer cars in the market were coming with air purifiers in any case due to the rising pollution levels in most Indian cities. Whether technology in cars can indeed effectively guarantee protection against viruses remains to be seen. Same is with services that may claim to disinfect a car but remain unclear on the duration.

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