Lynk & Co wants (wanted?) to be the Spotify of cars, but almost 4 years later, the upstart is still selling them full price.
Volvo and Geely are both filled with no lack of talented, intelligent people, so when the top minds from both come together to conceive of an entirely new vehicle brand, it’s probably going to be stemmed from a pretty good idea.
By Lynk & Co’s own description, they’re Chinese-Swedish, which may be true in terms of philosophy and such but does little to help shed light on the intricacies of how the automaker operates. However, in terms of positioning, they’d slot in between the premium Volvo and more mass-market Geely models.
Making its debut in 2016 alongside its maiden vehicle - aptly named the 01 - the marque seemed to seek to turn the automotive ownership model on its head, jettisoning traditional ways and fully embracing a more global perspective that also espoused catchy/cringe Silicon Valley start-up terms such as “mobility”, "disrupt", “connectivity”, and "community".
I See What You Did There....
In essence, it was car sharing. Cars as a service; when you need it, any way you’d like it. And, better still, because each Lynk & Co vehicle would be designed and engineered to be used by multiple people in a short span of time, they would be more uniquely adapted to the task. Hopefully.
However, despite all the supposed fanfare and idealistic goals, the brand has made very little headway on the international stage. China seems to be the only market they've been selling to in its near 4 year history, and to their credit they've been received positively, reflected by rather sales strong numbers - yes, even relative to China.
It appears they’ve also put their car sharing/subscription efforts almost entirely on ice, though not publicly. Despite it being a foundational aspect of the business and brand, all their cars available within China have been ‘sold’ to customers in that same traditional sense. As in, whoever bought the car paid full price and isn’t obliged to share it with anyone.
This reversal is actually quite comical given how incomprehensibly lifestyle-oriented (to the exclusion of sense and logic) their own website is (unless they’ve got another one in secret, behind the Great Firewall of China). The company’s corporate literature loves to talk about themselves being different and rebellious and cool, but doesn’t seem back that up with much information about the cars themselves or its unique ownership/subscription model.
Here's some examples of the Lynk & Co lifestyle.
Instead, every page on their website is a muddled collection of words that pretentiously describes a vague life lived on the edge (of something), peppered with beautifully fake candid photographs of attractive and culturally dirverse young people (in Europe), or posing with every random thing or activity except ones involving a car. Sounds about right. It almost looks like a placeholder website filled with stock photographs. Check it out if you haven’t, I dare you to make sense of it.
What are they selling? Where are the cars? What are the cars? There are sections in the main navigation tab about “Membership”, “Sharing”, and most amusingly, “Movement”. Remember, isn’t a car company, people. This a movement; this is Lynk & Co! Can you dig it?
At this point, unsurprisingly, none of these pages provide any sort of concrete information about…..well, anything. Every sentence is annoyingly vague and weirdly self congratulatory, yet they’re using plenty of future tense phrasing, talking about how they plan to do this, that and the other. Are we being trolled?
Yet, in China, for their first official year on the market in 2018, Lynk & Co has apparently boasted of being that year’s “fastest growing new brand” with over 120,000 cars sold and having over 220 retail outlets that connect customers directly with the manufacturer. This allows buyers a greater degree of customisability while Lynk & Co gets more control over the experience.
As clearly their sales numbers have been showing, there’s plenty of space for their cars to exist and thrive even without their fancy car subscription gimmicks in place. Why, then, are Lynk & Co looking so timid at the prospect of expanding beyond China’s borders as a ‘conventional’ automaker?
Given that all their cars are more luxurious and generously equipped, could it be out of caution to not risk cannibalising Volvo’s own models? Or could the culprit be a lack of confidence in its own line-up, which includes the newly revealed 06 compact SUV, when stacked against other global marques? Seems unlikely.
There’s a lot we don’t know about Lynk & Co, though we have to admit we do find the unusual personality of the company and their vehicles very interesting, even endearing. Cars like their 01 and 03 are, objectively, very appealing both inside and out. However, what doesn’t sit easy are the reasons why they seem so reclusive and deliberately opaque about their plans, especially given how ‘disruptive’, ‘forward-facing’, and lifestyle-oriented they wanted to (appear to) be.
In late 2019, plans were in motion for the brand to be introduced in the Netherlands, with bike-infested Amsterdam selected to be the first city for their car sharing subscriptions platform/enterprise to be made available alongside outright vehicle purchases.
Coinciding with that slated late-2020 European launch would be production of the 02 SUV in Ghent, Belgium. Given how this year has played out so far, no one is surprised at the lack of progress.