At 67, Horbury is past retirement age, but he shows little sign of slowing down: “I liked the idea of starting with a clean sheet of paper, and we have recruited a design team also attracted by that idea – a completely new car company.”
Horbury has established three design centres, one each in Shanghai, Gothenburg and Barcelona. A fourth, a production design studio, will open this year in Cixi, China.
Shanghai is 210-strong and run by Andreas Nilsson, while Barcelona is an all-digital advanced studio inherited from Volvo and run by David Ancona (Geely’s London cab was designed there). Gothenburg is run by Guy Burgoyne and started out with about a dozen ex-Volvo designers before reaching today’s 240 creatives, and it was here that Lynk&Co’s design themes were developed by a largely European team, with the brand created from the ground up.
“We started much deeper than solely design, and there was no marketing department,” says Horbury.
Lynk&Co is unique in that regard: a ‘crossover’ brand set up and funded by Chinese, with cars designed and engineered by Europeans for production to European standards in Volvo factories based in China.
Horbury’s brand and design themes for Lynk&Co drew its original inspiration from dark Swedish literature and TV adaptations, a globally popular genre. “The theme is ‘Scandic Noir’,” says Horbury, “with the inspiration that some of the most valued things in life are dark, like chocolate, espresso coffee, Guinness.”
Horbury’s team created the Lynk&Co theme around the face: the grille, the headlights, the bonnet opening and daytime running lights. “The car’s face is very important in China, maybe more so than in the West,” he says.
As a result, the key Lynk&Co design feature is a slim grille in dark plastic that runs the width of the nose and also houses the headlights. The more visible lights on the wing tops fulfil the daytime function.
Horbury says: “There’s a lot of detail in the grill moulding, which reflects the interest and heritage of China’s carving industry – incredibly complex, but tiny decorations in bone or wood. The Chinese like detail.”
The clamshell bonnet has a distinctive Porsche-style opening. “They’re not the only people doing that, but there is another unique Porsche feature – the radius at the top corners on the windscreen,” says Horbury.
The bonnet itself is decorated with a pair of strong feature lines, a theme repeated on the bodyside and inspired by Shanghai’s skyscraperdominated skyline.
There’s also no ‘wedge’ on the bodyside, Horbury instead adding detail with a strong shoulder that flares out into the rear wheel arch. “We’ve toughened up the main theme for SUVs, so when you see our saloons they have a muscular sports shape,” he explains. The 03 saloon concept unveiled at the Shanghai motor show earlier this year gave a glimpse of this styling theme.
At least five of Lynk&Co’s new models are designed, leaving Horbury plenty to do in coming years: “Oh yes, I’ll stay a bit longer. We’ve introduced a proper, professional design process and set up a design operation from nothing. I could have retired after Ford, but this is much more enjoyable.”
What the car industry could learn from Lynk&Co