Veteran designer Peter Horbury on crafting Lynk&Co’s new cars from the ground up

Should Lynk&Co, the Swedish-Chinese start-up car company, become a success, British designer Peter Horbury will rightly claim a large chunk of the credit.

Horbury has been beavering away at the launch of Lynk&Co since late 2011 and has guided more than just the shape of the nascent brand’s cars.

Lynk&Co was established by a Chinese entrepreneur, Li Shufu, and shares its parent company, Geely, with Volvo. It has been created to fill a gap in both China and export markets, sitting between the value-for-money Geely brand and upmarket Volvo. The group is now heading for combined production of more than two million vehicles.

2017 Lynk&Co 01 SUV launched at Shanghai show

“When I started at Geely, it had a couple of half-finished concepts and a small design staff. Lynk&Co now has over 500 people working in design alone,” says Horbury.

The former Chrysler, Volvo and Ford design chief is still working his magic even in this latter phase of his career. His most notable achievement to date is the design revitalisation of Volvo in the early 1990s.

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

Join the debate

Comments
5

26 June 2017
Pity he couldn't have persuaded them not to engage in passing off (possibly) in relation to the silly name and its seeming reference to Lincoln. It'd make a fine Proton.

bol

26 June 2017
rmcondo wrote:

Pity he couldn't have persuaded them not to engage in passing off (possibly) in relation to the silly name and its seeming reference to Lincoln. It'd make a fine Proton.

If you were going to pass your new brand off as anything, surely it wouldn't be Lincoln? Only really associated with pimps in 70s movies anywhere other than the US. More likely that it never crossed their minds.

26 June 2017
rmcondo wrote:

Pity he couldn't have persuaded them not to engage in passing off (possibly) in relation to the silly name and its seeming reference to Lincoln.

Never made the connection myself, don't think Europeans ever think about Lincoln ( most probably don't know Lincoln exists )

I'm looking forward to seeing these in person, they look good and they have Volvos know-how behind them so they're probably quality products. The drive probably wont be anything special ( doesn't seem to be their focus ) but the " Muji for cars " idea that seems to be behind them could work.

 

 

26 June 2017
Very un-Volvo fussy design. In fact the 01 SUV, in the picture at least, looks like the front end of a larger SUV has been bolted on forward of the front doors.

Perhaps they'll smell nice.

27 June 2017
Viscount Biscuit wrote:

Very un-Volvo fussy design. In fact the 01 SUV, in the picture at least, looks like the front end of a larger SUV has been bolted on forward of the front doors.

Perhaps they'll smell nice.

I'm sure the fulltime AWD Lynk-X willsmell nice

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq
  • Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Expensive and flawed but this understated diesel-electric Audi Q7 has a lot to offer
  • Citroën C3
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Is the third gen Citroën C3 ‘fresh and different’ enough to take on its supermini rivals? We spend six months with one to find out
  • BMW X3
    First Drive
    15 October 2017
    A satisfying rework of the X3 that usefully improves its handling, cabin finish, space and connectivity to make this BMW a class front-runner again
  • Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer
    First Drive
    13 October 2017
    Off-road estate is now bigger, more spacious and available with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, but is it enough to make its German rivals anxious?