The missing Lynk & Co: "Netflix of cars" reveals 02 crossover SUV
Lynk & Co today revealed its brand new 02 crossover SUV, the missing Lynk in the chain between its previously-revealed 01, a full-bore SUV, and its 03 sedan. A car "for people who don't want to own cars," the model combines the body of a hatchback with the chassis of an SUV. In the 02, Lynk & Co promises a fun and sporty hybrid – and one which plans to disrupt traditional distribution models.
"The 02 is the absolute centre of gravity of our brand and the heart of what Lynk & Co is all about," says Andreas Nilsson, Lynk & Co Head of Design. "A shorter wheelbase, lower ride height and center of gravity, combined with two-tone colour-schemes and softer, voluptuous surfaces, muscular haunches and wheel-arches, give the 02 a solid and confident stance while being agile and sporty in character." In reality, the 02 can be thought of as a distillation of the 01 SUV.
Like Lynk & Co's other models, the 02 (said "zero two") is pitched at young professionals. The company is keen to play down the traditional car talk, claiming that such consumers aren't interested in horsepower and 0 – 60-style posturing. Instead, Lynk & Co continues to prioritize connectivity, which it calls "the soul of the brand." That's not so much Bluetooth connections, though these are certainly to be expected, but connected services, whether that's pizza delivery on the go, or smart services for refuelling and parking.
At an event for assembled journalists, New Atlas asked Alain Visser, Senior Vice President of Lynk & Co, about technology young consumers are interested in: hybrid and electric options. In Europe in the first year Lynk & Co will ship hybrids exclusively, with all-electrics joining the range after that. Visser says that no diesel, nor indeed any combustion-only options will be available in Europe.
Visser also points to car-sharing and its subscription models as a boost to its green credentials. He thinks Lynk & Co cars will be unique in having a share button built in, allowing shared ownership or subscriptions with the use of a smartphone app. According to Visser, subscription commitments could begin from as little as a month at a time.
Lynk & Co revealed that sales for its cars should begin in Europe in 2020. Its current strategy foregoes traditional dealerships in favor of offline urban "brand boutiques." The first of these is set for Amsterdam, followed by others in Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and London. The eventual goal is to have an offline store in every European capital. The boutiques will be complemented by 20 mobile stores that will visit other European destinations regularly.
"I'm not very liked among car dealers," Visser told the assembled press. He argues that young people today hate going to out-of-town dealerships, choosing from myriad build options and negotiating on price. Instead, Visser compares what Lynk & Co is doing with cars with Apple's approach to iPhones. Visser says the company is likely to offer around eight build variants across all models in contrast to the billions offered by traditional manufacturers. Visser says this means you'll be able to drive out of a store on the same day you buy rather than having to wait weeks for a car delivery.
Lynk & Co compares itself with Netflix and Spotify, offering mobility as a service as much as the cars themselves. By cutting out third-party dealerships, Lynk & Co hopes to offer both purchases and subscription models at a reduced price. Between its offline and roving pop-up stores, the company thinks it can serve Europe with a mere 250 sales staff. It's this small, targeted sales footprint, combined with the lack of a dealership margin, that the company thinks will make it competitive on price. As yet, there are no specifics as to how this model might be applied in, say, North America, in future.
Lynk & Co also announced that its cars will be produced at the existing Volvo plant in Ghent, Belgium. Like Volvo, Lynk & Co is owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.
Given the booming popularity of mini and crossover SUVs, it's no surprise a crossover SUV should figure in Lynk & Co's lineup. However, whether the company's overall offering is yet best placed to appeal to urbanite hipsters without a dedicated small car offering is perhaps open to question.
And yet the company's commitment to doing things differently seems more than superficial. Half of its employees are women and it hires many of its designers straight out of school. "If you hire car guys you get car stuff," Visser said. Visser talks a great game, and time will tell whether the strong brand ethos converts to sales in the European market.
At today's event Lynk & Co also announced a "design collaboration" with the e-commerce outfit Tictail. Dubbed "The City Dweller Series," the partnership will see fashion and homewear from 10 international designers dovetail with Lynk & Co's brand. Details are next to non-existent, but it's likely that we're talking more about fashion than dangly air fresheners.
Full disclosure: Lynk & Co covered the costs of New Atlas's travel and accommodation from the UK to its reveal event in Amsterdam.
Company website: Lynk & Co