Geely, the Chinese owner of Volvo, has announced its new car brand, Lynk & Co, and it’s first product: the 01 compact SUV. Designed under the direction of Lynk & Co head of design Andreas Nilsson, the first new product is expected to debut in China next year and make it to the US and Europe by 2018.
The new Lynk & Co brand will become the first premium counterpart to spin off of a mainstream Chinese brand, taking a page from luxury offshoots such as Lexus, Infiniti and Genesis. But the company also stands to benefit enormously from Volvo’s technology advances in user interface and the Swedish carmaker’s new CMA modular platform — previously shown on the concept versions of the brand’s forthcoming 40-Series concepts.
“The design brief for Lynk & Co was simple: the cars should stand out from the crowd and appeal to a truly global audience,” says Nilsson, a longtime Volvo Cars designer who began working on the project in the autumn of 2013. Elements such as the high-riding fender and headlamps nestled into either end of the full-width grille are unique brand identifiers, as are its ‘jewel cube’ rear lamps. The surface treatment and design details are noticeably premium, as was its intent.
But it’s impossible to look at the new 01 without thinking of Porsche’s SUV products. The front three-quarter view of the car harkens up images of the Cayenne, with high set DRLs and a similar shoulder and roofline, while the bodyside treatment — scallop leading from the side vent to the door — is near identical to that of the Panamera.
Measuring 4530mm in overall length, 1855mm wide and 1654mm tall, the 01 SUV is smaller and taller than Porsche’s Macan (4681mm X 1924mm X 1624mm). Unsurprisingly, the 01 SUV’s 2730mm long wheelbase is also shorter than the Porsche midsize SUV (2807mm).
The Lynk & Co 01 SUV follows through with its premium notions inside the cabin as well, with traditional materials contrasting with more technical materials and colors.
“We wanted to acknowledge that our users are extremely tech-savvy — a smartphone is an integral part of their lives and our interior design reflects that,” says Nilsson.
With technology and connectivity playing an increasingly important role in vehicles, the Lynk & Co brand is heralded as the ‘most connected’ ever, though a certain California-based car company might beg to differ.
Lynk & Co is partnering with Microsoft as well as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to offer customers the ability to shop online from the comfort of their vehicles.
The Lynk & Co brand will harness the 10.1-inch touchscreen interface — cloaked in new graphics of course — and the multitude of active and passive safety systems (ie forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, pedestrian-detecting emergency braking system) tried and tested in Volvo products. But the brand will also add some more exclusive features, such as on-board telematics developed in partnership with Ericcson and the ability to ‘share’ the car with others using a digital key controlled via a smartphone app.
The latter functionality is key (pun intended) in the future use scenario of vehicles. Geely envisages that Lynk & Co’s first model and upcoming models will be available on a car-sharing or subscription basis as well as through individual purchase, and they’ve baked in this use prospect from the outset.
Interestingly, Lynk & Co is also playing up the personalization aspect of the brand. Wanting to give customers an exclusive premium product for which they can then extract maximum money, elements such as the individual color accents at the top of the grille, in the front fender air vent and at the top of the DLO can all be specified to taste.
Inside, the entire user interface can also be customized to suit individual tastes. Icons in the touchscreen can be rearranged, the highlight color changed, and the all-digital instrument panel reconfigured.
Beyond picking from an array of color choices, customers will also decide on ‘fixed price collections’ — a selection of specifications inspired by fashion and technology that have been individually bundled. This will replace traditional trim levels and likely include a series of items you never knew existed and will never use.
Speaking at the launch event in the fashionable German City of Berlin yesterday, Geely design director Peter Horbury said Lynk & Co’s first five models have already been finalized.
To showcase the bandwidth of the new brand, Lynk & Co also debuted a sports car concept with scissor doors to depict how the brand’s design language and themes would translate onto other vehicle typologies.
The different models in the range will retain simple naming conventions and be replaced with each subsequent generation. This simplified nomenclature is an interesting move but could pose some problems when models reach their second or third generations. Perhaps a .1 and .2 will be added?
Like Tesla’s business model, Lynk & Co has also decided to sell vehicles directly to prospective customers via online orders. While the company will have a few flagship stores in select cities around the world, the decision to cut out traditional dealers could directly translate into cost savings to consumers.
Cutting out the expenses associated with dealer networks will also result in parent company Geely saving as much as 25 percent on the cost of the car, and result in significantly more profits.
Lynk & Co’s aim to simplify vehicle ownership by redefining the purchasing, servicing, user and connectivity experience isn’t entirely novel, but the announcement is the first detailed plan offered by one of the largest Chinese car companies in an industry that is rapidly maturing. Expect the first fully-fledged Chinese-made 01 SUV on Western roads in 2018.