The first Europe-bound SUV from Lynk & Co, a new sub-brand from Chinese firm Geely, shows plenty of promise
23 December 2017

The launch of a Chinese-made car built to a standard that will give it a genuine chance in the European market is a significant development, but perhaps more interesting is the innovative way Geely’s new Lynk & Co sub-brand is planning to operate in Europe when sales begin in late 2019.

Lynk & Co 01 receives 6000 orders in 137 seconds

Behind its grammatically challenging brand name, and its mission to appeal to millennial buyers, Lynk is closely related to Volvo, with its model range set to be built on the same flexible Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) that underpins models such as the new XC40. Lynk’s first stand-alone product, an SUV named the 01, has just gone on sale in China and will soon be joined by a crossover with a lower roofline, the 02, and a conventional saloon, called the 03.

Lynk & Co 01 prototype review

All will use the same three and four-cylinder petrol engines as their Swedish sisters, although European models will all be powered by a forthcoming hybrid powertrain that uses a dual-clutch gearbox and gives the three-pot engine electrical assistance. Ambitions are high, with Lynk & Co boss Alain Visser saying the brand plans to sell 500,000 cars a year globally by 2021. 

We only got to drive the 01 briefly but can report that it will at least be competitive with more mainstream alternatives when it reaches Europe. Although the car is conventional enough, the company’s wider business model is anything but. Lynk plans to launch in Europe and the US without a dealer network and rely instead on direct sales, in a way similar to that of sister brand Polestar.

Opinion: will Polestar's subscription system work?

Cars will be serviced by Volvo franchises but definitely won’t be sold there. While it will be possible to buy Lynk & Co models outright, and for what we’re promised will be very competitive prices considering the generous standard equipment, the company is putting its faith behind a pioneering subscription system that will in effect offer flexible short-term leasing with minimal commitment, or, as Visser puts it, “like Spotify or Netflix for cars”. The ambition is for what will in effect be a monthly arrangement, enabling buyers to change cars when they need to. Visser says the ambition is for 70% of Lynk’s European sales to use this subscription model.

This means that Lynk & Co will not only own most of its fleet but will also manage it throughout its entire lifespan. Visser says the plan is to offer two or even three subscription “rounds” – cars going back to the company, getting reprepared and then being rented again as used models at a lower cost than newer versions – “like getting an iPhone 7 for less than an iPhone X”. The current thinking is that at the end of these rental cycles, cars will ultimately be scrapped rather than sold. That means one of the biggest problems for any new, unproven firm – that of managing residual values – will be outflanked, albeit by Lynk keeping significant costs on its own books.

Volvo and Lynk&Co plug-in hybrid tech to launch in 2018

Plans for a smartphone app that will allow other users access to the car, or make it possible for users to share ownership, will also make the subscription model more like car sharing than a conventional lease arrangement. Lynk is also bucking industry trends by planning to carry an inventory of each model rather than building them to order. The latter would result in major lead times given the distance to the Luqiao factory where the 01 is constructed. That means a stripped-out range and no options.

Visser says the plan is for just eight variants of the 01 in Europe – including colours – and only three prices. “All the cars will effectively be in stock,” says the company boss. “There will be no waiting; if you want one you can be driving it the same day.” There’s still time for things to change before the brand’s formal launch in Europe, but if Lynk can deliver its plans, it could have the disruptive influence to match its tech start-up ambition. 

Driving Lynk & Co's First Car

Chinese media events are not like European ones, with our only chance to drive the 01 being the unlikely environment of Geely’s Ningbo race circuit.

For a tall and not particularly athletic SUV, it coped well with the challenge, but it’s fair to say the definitive verdict will have to wait a while longer.

The 01’s quality impresses. Although some of the cabin materials feel cheap when inspected closely – including a fair amount of what looks like metal but is actually plastic – it all feels durable and well screwed together. Space is good, especially in the back, and standard equipment is generous: all versions will get a 10.2in touchscreen as well as digital instrument clusters.

Our test cars used a Chinese-made version of Volvo’s 2.0-litre Drive-E petrol turbo in 188bhp tune, an engine that won’t be coming to Europe. It pulled well and willingly but got loud when worked hard, and the six-speed torque converter auto of the front-drive version lacked willingness when asked to respond quickly.

The all-wheel-drive version has a far smarter dual-clutch automatic gearbox that will also be paired with the innovative three-cylinder hybrid powertrain that is set to come with European version of the 01. The handling balance on track was predictably nose-led, but refinement seemed good and, apart from juddering brakes, the 01 tolerated the abuse well.

Read our full review of the Lynk & Co 01 prototype here

Read more

Lynk & Co 01 recieves 6000 orders in 137 seconds

What could the car industry learn from Lynk & Co? 

Lynk & Co 01 prototype review

Join the debate


23 December 2017

It looks fine from the outside. But I will be extremely surprised to hear the suspension has been tuned to the UK likes, or the noise has been supressed enough, or the power output is fit for the weight and size.

Not for me obviously, but I could never supprt buying from a country that is grabbing resources from its neighbours, aka Germany-Bohemia pre WWll. Or that is government fed funds to operate in a free market economy and undermine it by doing so.

23 December 2017

John386, you already have many, many products from China - almost anything electronic for instance (including the iphone) comes from China.

XXXX just went POP.

24 December 2017

You cannot escape it, but I do not buy Chinese brands and when made in China, it is by foreign owned companies, which is about the best you can do. Voting with your wallet is better than providing profits for bullets. Other than that, I check labels to make sure I am not supporting the making of the next Empire.

25 December 2017

Fred Goodwin, all the other bankers, did they away with it?

And the West is still sleeping at the wheels  

23 December 2017

If most cars don't enter the market after use. I can see this though as convenient alternative to conventional leases if a person where say travelling one might choose to lease one of their cars instead of going to one of the large lease firms. Effectively this might compete with car leases than car sales.

23 December 2017
Sounds more like a accountants or law firm. Can't take them seriously with a name like that.

23 December 2017

It looks OK, although its certainly not my sort of car.

It will be interesting to see if they can make this sales model work, i still feel people like to 'own' their cars, even if they borrow money to do it.

But maybe it will just be seen as a cut price Volvo, rather like Skoda are a cut price VW.

23 December 2017
You end up renting a car whose previous user smoked or ate smelly food....

23 December 2017

Wouldnt matter - it would clearly be properly valeted and inspected before going to its second owner.

XXXX just went POP.

23 December 2017

If this car doesn't hit the spot it won't be long before Geely build one that does. The Chinese car industry is progressing at a rate that makes the rise of the Japanese car industry look sluggish. The European car industry needs to up it's game or the Chinese will overtake it, soon.



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