Lynk & CO is taking an unconventional route to break into Europe, by promoting a month-to-month membership model that encourages sharing and relying solely on social media and events to build brand recognition.
Both of those strategies are threatened by the coronavirus crisis, said Alain Visser, the CEO of the Volvo-Geely joint venture brand, but the pandemic has also given Lynk & CO reason for optimism.
Visser acknowledged that Lynk & CO "members" might be hesitant to share their cars – which would let them earn money and lower their monthly payments – but he said the automaker would make every effort to provide the tools to sanitize the vehicles.
Events, too, are largely out of the question in the short term, Visser said, including the opening of Lynk & CO’s first European retail “club,” set for the end of this month in Amsterdam. “We might have a silent opening,” he said in a recent interview with Automotive News Europe after an online event to launch the 01 hybrid SUV.
Lynk & CO has embarked on an aggressive advertising push in the fourth quarter to sign up "members" for a waiting list, either to buy a Lynk & CO 01 (starting price in France: 41,500 euros, or $50,900, while the plug-in hybrid Volvo XC40 starts at 47,400 euros) or to take a monthly subscription at 500 euros. The first vehicles are expected to be delivered in the spring of 2021.
But at the same time, the coronavirus crisis has made many people wary of taking mass transit, increasing the need for personal mobility, whether through car ownership or long-term rentals, analysts have said. “There will be a marked preference for individual mobility over public and shared modes of transport,” consultancy Capgemini said in a report this spring.
“What we see is that people are more open for a membership, as they realize how volatile the world is,” Visser said. “There's a lot of insecurity, and making a financial commitment is quite difficult now. So the openness to a membership has increased, whereas the openness to sharing is probably a bit more at risk.”
Visser said that beyond private customers, Lynk & CO is reaching out to business customers and fleet buyers as potential members or buyers, and has started discussions in the ride-hailing area, but he declined to say more.
“We even have made first contacts with real estate companies building apartment blocks, in which sales would include mobility,” he said. “So if you have 50 apartments, you’d have 10 cars, and you can share the cars among the owners.”