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.