Any time a new car company launches, it’s generally met with a healthy mix of skepticism and hopefulness. Leading up to the debut of burgeoning automaker Lynk & Co, I was definitely leaning toward the former, as the brand’s vague website swapped shopping tools and specs for clips of millennials drinking tea and blowing bubbles. In fact, there wasn’t a single mention of cars or driving at all. I actually had to double check that I hadn’t accidentally loaded an American Apparel ad.
As it turns out, Lynk & Co kept its goals secret for good reason, because this is an automaker that does things a bit differently. A car brand for the “sharing economy,” Lynk & Co wants to change how people buy, own, and operate their vehicles, while also pushing the boundaries of connectivity and personalization.
If this all sounds a little vaporware-ish to you, you’re not alone, but the company actually has a very solid foundation in the automotive field. Lynk & Co is owned by Chinese powerhouse Geely, the same automaker that owns Volvo and the London Taxi Company. As such, Lynk & Co’s first vehicle is a compact SUV based on Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), and is appropriately titled the 01.
Designed and engineered in Sweden, the 01 is a sharp-looking crossover that will mesh perfectly in China where it will initially be sold, with U.S. and European debuts set for later. What sets it apart, though, is how it will be used. Like all of Lynk & Co’s products, the 01 will feature a “share” button that uses an app to allow drivers to rent out their cars in a manner similar to Getaround, only in this case, the vehicle is meant for communal use from the start. This changes the buying process completely, as drivers will be generating rental income as they pay off what they owe on their cars.
Speaking of the buying process, Lynk & Co’s business plan is nontraditional as well. Much like Tesla, the brand forgoes the standard dealership format in favor of online sales and in-store ordering, after which cars like the 01 will be delivered straight to your door. Vehicles will be purchased either by lease or subscription model.
Given its aspiration to be “the most connected car in the world,” Lynk & Co’s 01 goes much further than carsharing in terms of interacting with the community. Flexing its international muscle, the brand has partnered with companies like Alibaba, Ericsson, and Microsoft to develop a car connectivity cloud with an open Application Programming Interface. That means third-party developers will be able to “invent new apps and users [will be able] to personalize, enrich and expand the automobile experience,” allowing each driver to make their ride (or driver profile) uniquely their own. In addition to that, all Lynk & Co vehicles will feature a large central touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay, MirrorLink, and Android Auto.
As for the meat and potatoes of the SUV, it will boast a wide range of safety and convenience technologies including Forward Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection, and Lane Departure Warning. The vehicle has Swedish bones, after all. It’s unclear what exactly powers the 01, but Lynk & Co says all of its models will be offered as hybrids or plug-in hybrids, with two full EVs arriving sometime down the road.
Will Lynk & Co’s unique approach be as disruptive as the carmaker claims? We’ll be watching closely when the 01 touches down in China next year.