Yesterday, Geely, owners of Volvo, launched a new car brand: Lynk & Co. The company also launched its first product – the logically-named 01 – which follows the Qoros and Borgward approach of ‘designed in Europe, made in China’. The car itself looks conventional, albeit contemporary – an SUV with a choice of conventional, hybrid or electric powertrains, and a simple trim and options strategy, set to be sold directly online or through outlets owned by the brand itself (think Tesla, in-mall, etc.). The connectivity levels are also high – the cars are described as “independent WiFi hubs, with data plans included in the price.”
So far, then, apart from the names of brand and car, nothing particularly out of the ordinary. Yet Lynk & Co is intriguing because it’s the first car brand to position its products also as shared or rentable resources – devices that, Lynk & Co says, one can “buy, lease, subscribe [to] or borrow.” The company says that “new solutions for car usage and access will be offered – from traditional ownership and leasing to subscription and sharing-membership.”
The website shows an app (or pair of apps) that allows the car to be used by others when the owner (or main user) is not using it. The company draws parallels with Airbnb – why not let others that you trust pay you to use your car when you don’t need it? The new model also has an open application programming interface (API), allowing 3rd-party developers to develop apps for the car.
It’s not completely clear if the whole system of booking, renting and paying is set to ‘go live’ as soon as cars are available to buy, lease or rent (2017 in China, Europe and the US dates TBC) – but it raises some interesting questions regarding tax, insurance and personal data.
On first impression, this looks to be a brave and laudable attempt to shake up this inertia-led sector – and we’ll be watching with great interest to see if this is a catalyst for real change in the way we use, own and pay for cars.