Newborn Chinese manufacturer Lynk & Co debuts production-ready SUV with global ambition.
Punctuation has no place in a car name, so we’ll understand if your first reaction to the launch of a new brand called Lynk & Co is to wonder quite what the marketing team responsible for the name were smoking at the time. But daft title aside, the rest of the project is properly serious.
There’s a lot to get through, so we’ll start with the distilled highlights. Lynk will be an offshoot of Chinese automaker Geely, which also owns Volvo, and is set to launch a series of new models based on the same Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) that will underpin the next generation of ‘40 series Ovlovs, which we told you about earlier this year.
The brand is set to be launched globally with ambitions to turn it into a major player within just five years – that’s major as in 500,000 sales by 2021. The new outfit was launched in Sweden yesterday in the shape of a production ready compact SUV which will be the first variant on sale, and which has a name in stark contrast to the brand’s zany moniker – it’s just known as the 01.
Half of those sales are anticipated to be in China, where all of the company’s models will be produced, initially at least. But engineering and design is being led from Sweden, and Lynk wants us to regard it as a “northern European” brand that just happens to build its cars elsewhere; apparently Chinese consumers are reluctant to buy cars from what are seen as Chinese companies.
The 01 is certainly a striking looking thing although we’re not entirely convinced by the official claim that it represents the brand’s core themes of ‘personal’, ‘respectful’, ‘new technology’ and – one you probably didn’t see coming – ‘dark.’ To us it bears more influences than a teenage punk-reggae-fusion band: Jeep Cherokee at the front and rear, Nissan Qashqai in the high-mounted headlamps and a close enough take on the ‘shark fin’ of the DS3 that we wouldn’t be surprised if PSA sent a strongly worded lawyer’s letter.
Underneath the 01 and its siblings will be closely related to the next generation of small Volvos, with Lynk executives saying that electrification will be offered on all models, and it may well be that all versions sold outside China will be either hybrids or pure EVs. Other than confirming that both three- and four-cylinder engines will be offered there was no news on the oily bits, but the presence of the same cutaway that Volvo showed at the unveiling of the Volvo XC40 concept in May, and which we know shows a three-cylinder petrol engine with a seven-speed DCT and hybrid assistance, suggests we can expect to see the same powerplant in its Lynk sisters. We were also told that both front-drive and all-drive versions will be offered.
More emphasis is being put on the connectivity that Lynk says will be standard in all its cars, including always-on telematics and infrastructure-to-car communication that will, ultimately, allow speed limits and even the duration of green traffic lights to be communicated to Lynk’s cars. The company’s Senior Vice President, Alain Visser, says we should regard it as being a provider of mobility rather than just cars, with the plan being to offer various flexible forms of leasing and even part-ownership, and also to sell its cars in most territories without dealers or conventional distribution networks.
Geely’s design director Peter Horbury introduced journalists to the 01; he formerly held the same position at Volvo and Ford and – as an avuncular Brit – is one of the few people we can think of who could have got away with saying “ta-da!” as the sheet was twitched off. He later confirmed that there will be at least four Lynk variants at or shortly after the launch of the brand which will take place next year in China, and in other major markets including Australia in 2018.
We also got to see a more radical concept car, officially named the Lynk Concept Car (it seems most originality was spent on that ampersand). Unfortunately the company wouldn’t let us take any pictures of it and is refusing to share any images of it, but we can say that it’s a lower and leaner four-door coupe with a similarly upright stance to the 01 at the front but without its crossover sister’s towering radiator grille. It keeps the crossover’s high-mounted headlights, though and – being a concept – got to wear quad gullwing doors. We’re betting that a productionized version becomes the 02. The naming strategy really is sequential numbers.
At this stage it’s fair to say there are more questions than answers, not least how Lynk hopes to get itself to half a million sales from a standing start despite what we’re told by Visser will be “ultra competitive” pricing. We’re sure we won’t have to wait long to start filling in some blanks.