I recently wrote an article about Pontiac, a “companion” brand to Oakland that ultimately pushed it’s parent out of the market.
Lynk and Co. is a modern interpretation of a companion brand having been created in 2016 by Zeijhiang Geely Holding Group, the current owners of Volvo, Proton (who own Lotus) and the London Taxi Company. The brand has just started selling their vehicles and have plans for two models: the 01 which is an SUV and the 03 which will be a saloon (sedan).
What is more interesting about this new brand is that it is more focused on the occupants and modern marketing methods than the actual vehicles. Internet connectivity is a key selling point for the brand and they will be trialling new ways of ownership. This means subscription services, car sharing, new financial loan structures and new ways to actually buy the vehicle – i.e. through the Internet with a range of customisations to be chosen before the car is built. Delivery will be via a non-sales outlet in China and traditional dealers elsewhere.
The company will also ship an application programming interface so that developers can create smartphone apps that “talk” with the vehicles.
Their designs are based on a Compact Modular Architecture that was funded by Geely for Volvo and other brands in the group. This architecture has been moved into a separate entity under Geely and Volvo has also taken a 30% stake in Lynk and Co with Geely Automobiles (20%) and the Geely Group owning the rest.
The architecture is also being used in the new XC40 and both cars are being built in a factory in Taizhou, just north of Shanghai. Another factory at Zhangjiakou is being readied for production. This one is a long way north west of Beijing! The company has also announced that a Volvo factory in Ghent, Belgium will also build the cars for the European market and there is speculation that a Volvo plant in South Carolina will build the US versions, although no official announcement has been made yet.
Sales started in China late 2017, Europe is due to start selling in 2019 and the US is expected to come on-stream in 2020. Most sales will be through the Internet with the Volvo dealer network in Europe and the US used to also deliver the cars outside China. Geely has high expectations for this lower cost brand with 500,000 sales by 2021 with half of that coming from Europe and the US. 6,000 orders were taken when the brand launched during a three day online sale!
Geely’s acquisition of Volvo has really made this brand a reality. The group has wanted to bring a quality lower cost vehicle to market for over ten years and bringing Volvo onboard meant that they could get a reliable architecture to underpin the brand. The new XC40 with the XC60 and XC90 provides Geely with platforms to share across a wide range of other brands. With the London Taxi Company and Volvo developing electric power systems and Lotus engineering in the group, Geely have a shot at becoming a major player across several market segments.
So the companion brand concept is still alive – and this isn’t a simple case of badge engineering, the cars will be different externally and will have different options. Link and Co will certainly sit between Geely Automobiles and Volvo in China and price wise will sit under Volvo in Europe and later the US.
One hopes that Volvo do not end up in the same graveyard as Oakland!