► New brand Lynk & Co unveils first model
► First car is a compact SUV dubbed the ‘01’
► Digital sales, car sharing, no options and more
Geely is likely to be the first Chinese carmaker to make a major push into Western markets when sales of its new Lynk & Co cars begin, probably in late 2018, in Europe and America. The company, which also owns Volvo, is pursuing a new sales model that consists of no franchised dealers, no options and car sharing. It also boasts industry-leading connectivity.
Lynk & Co’s first car, the 01, is a small stylish SUV that’s technically similar to the upcoming Volvo XC40 SUV. The 01 shares the XC40’s new CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform, including electrical architecture, engines and many of its advanced safety systems.
Various Chinese manufacturers, notably Qoros, have made loud noises about big-budget European and US launches before, yet Lynk & Co is likely to be the first Chinese brand to make a significant push in the West. Chinese sales start late in 2017.
So, where was the new 01 SUV engineered?
Although the company is Chinese owned, Lynk & Co cars are designed and engineered in Volvo’s hometown of Gothenburg. Many senior executives are ex-Volvo and much of the technology – including the new CMA platform – is shared with Volvo. Cars should be technically ‘state of the art’, particularly with regards to active and passive safety.
In one key technical area, connectivity, Lynk & Co makes bold claims for leadership. ‘Just as Volvo has leadership in safety, so we want leadership in connectivity,’ says Lynk & Co senior vice president (and ex Volvo marketing boss) Alain Visser.
All cars have a large 10.1-inch configurable central touchscreens and telematics that are always connected to the internet and the car’s own cloud. A dedicated app allows the owner to monitor and control many of the car’s features remotely. Buying, sharing, organising servicing, and reselling can all be done digitally.
What’s this about car sharing? Is it a key focus of the brand?
A ‘share my car’ button on the touchscreen gives other drivers the opportunity to rent your vehicle, using a digital key. Visser expects it to be a popular feature. ‘Many traditional car buyers may not like the idea of sharing their car, but that’s changing. Today’s customer wants mobility, not necessarily to own a car.’ Younger people – unexcited by today’s cars – are a key target, adds Visser.
A new collaboration with Microsoft and Chinese giant Alibaba has built a big digital infrastructure, including configuring, purchasing, delivery and access to all customer services. A separate deal with Ericsson has created the car connectivity cloud, which can be personalised. As third party developers engineer more apps, so the car’s range of digital abilities expands.
Can I visit a dealership to buy one, or will it all be done online?
Another innovation is the retail model. All Lynk & Co cars will be sold directly on line or in Lynk & Co-owned stores, including pop-ups. Prices are fixed and transparent. Cars will be delivered to customers, after purchase, and collected for servicing. Although carmakers have been talking about this retail model for years, no mainstream maker practises it – partly because of pressure from strong independent retailers.
As well as conventional sales and leasing, Lynk & Co will also offer a subscription sales model – like renting your iPhone from Vodafone – and also shared membership, where you buy limited use of a vehicle.
Are there any personalisation opportunities at all?
Another major departure is the lack of any options. Instead, as with fashion, there will be 10 collections every year, each with different design and technical priorities. This makes the manufacturing and ordering process much easier. By eliminating the conventional distribution model, Visser claims Lynk & Co can save 25-30 per cent of total costs compared with a conventional carmaker. The cars will be made in China, though future production in Volvo’s Swedish factories is also possible.
Company bosses claim the technology will be at premium car levels, yet overall pricing should be similar to mainstream makers such as Ford or Toyota – possibly less.
The Lynk & Co 01 is a distinctively styled SUV, sized just above the Audi Q3, with high-mounted blade-style running lights, wide horizontal grille flanked by discreet headlamps and a sharp-edged chunky looks. Englishman Peter Horbury, Geely’s design boss and the former design chief of both Volvo and Ford in North America, oversaw the styling. He said it was an extraordinary and exciting challenge, designing a new car from a new brand. ‘There is no past to influence us. Only a future.’
What kind of powertrains will be offered?
Engines include a new Volvo 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol and the existing Volvo 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol. Unlike Volvo SUVs, there is no diesel likely, although there will be a Volvo-sourced plug-in hybrid. There’s also a choice of two- or four-wheel drive.
Intriguingly, one of Lynk & Co’s goals is to persuade the Chinese to buy more Chinese cars. Currently many of the big selling nameplates in China are Western, Japanese or Korean. Geely wants the Chinese to covet a Chinese brand – even if it was developed in the West.
The goal is to sell 500,000 cars a year globally by 2021, by which point there should be five distinct Lynk & Co models – called 01, 02, 03, etc – likely to include a hatch, saloon and crossover. China will be responsible for half of all sales.
According to Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson, who attended the launch, the new car brand is also great news for Volvo. ‘It gives us much better economies of scale. It gives Geely access to Volvo technology. This is a real win-win for both brands.’
Is there anything else I need to know?
The global launch saw the surprise unveiling of a low-slung Lynk Concept four-door gullwing coupe, designed on the same CMA architecture. Design boss Horbury said it showed how flexible the new design language was – and the versatility of the new platform. Production, though, is unlikely.
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