Created by Geely and Volvo, Lynk & Co is a mobility company distinctly in their own lane. Instead of striving to sell cars, the Gothenburg-based company offers month-to-month leasing of their fully equipped 01 hybrid (which is based off of the Volvo XC40) in Europe while also creating opportunities for owners of the 01 to rent their own car out for extra income. It’s a radically new and seemingly contradictory approach for the industry—how can a car company not sell cars?—but for the Swedish brand, a determination to disrupt and a savvy business model make the risk well worth the reward: true sustainability.
We first connected with the brand at their launch, and have been following them and their audacious leader, automobile industry veteran Alain Visser, with admiration for making moves that larger companies can’t or won’t. Their business model, marketing model, and style stand out amongst every other automobile brand, leasing company and car sharing service. We sat down with Visser at the opening of their first Milan clubhouse, and learned some of the ways the brand is differentiating their offering.
“If you look at the basic statistic that the average car stands still for 95% of the time, it is shocking. It’s one of the most inefficient assets on this planet,” says Alain Visser, the company’s visionary CEO, during the opening of Lynk & Co‘s first clubhouse in Milan. “Whether you’re fully electric, whether you’re fully recyclable, whether you have fully sustainable materials, if your business model consists of selling a product that is used for 5% of the time, you cannot call yourself a sustainable company.”
The numbers, he tells CH, offer “shocking evidence. This industry is so arrogant, so hypocritical. Suddenly all the car brands say they are sustainable—which is bullshit. If your business model is selling a product that is used for 5%, it’s just not sustainable. That’s my motivation; I’m fed up with this hypocrisy.”
The solution to this contradiction, Visser found, is flexibility, mostly in month-to-month leasing. Lynk & Co offers two types: a subscription service with a month-to-month contract at €550 per month (which includes insurance, maintenance and road-side assistance) or booking an 01 as needed through the company’s app where rates vary on how long you’re borrowing and availability. You can also purchase a car and choose whether or not to list your car for sharing via the app. Regardless of your ownership you can rent out your car, which many owners do, often earning enough to pay for the cost of their lease or loan.
People can “go on the Lynk & Co app, and share their car or can borrow a car,” explains the CEO. “If I want to share my car, it looks up my car and knows where it is. Then it says, ‘When do you want to start sharing?’ I can say ‘Now.’ ‘When do you want it to end?’ And then you can decide. That’s how it works. And then if somebody takes my car, they get a code. With that code, they can open and drive my car with their phone. Their phone becomes the key. It’s super simple.”
By incorporating the service into the brand, the company not only creates a viable, sustainable way to get around, but it also removes the hassle that comes with traditional car purchases, like negotiating prices and haggling at dealerships. “We see the average age of our customers between five and 10 years younger than the average car buyer, and they all have this mindset of ‘I am fed up with current negotiations, price negotiation styles, 1,000 options.’ They just want something else,” says Visser.
Lynk & Co is undeniably something else, as they completely upend the standard model. “80% of our employees have never worked in the car industry. Their motivation is to disrupt,” he continues. “We like to be a little bit disruptive but always with a smile.”
Their business approach isn’t the only thing that strays far from tradition. Lynk’s clubhouses offer a clever, experimental form of marketing. With rapidly expanding locations currently operating in Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium, the design-forward and maximalist clubhouses act as concept stores featuring a range of sustainably made products by local and regional brands, often small and independently owned, including clothing, accessories and home goods, gathering spaces with exciting programming and a destination where anyone can come in, get a coffee, and learn about who the brand truly. Whether you’re an automotive nerd, design head or just doing holiday shopping, their spaces offer something for most people. The clubhouses are located in busy city neighborhoods where their potential customers are, and each celebrates their architectural heritage and diversity, with minimal alteration and a celebration of the space’s previous lives and local tastes. A lamp made of orange peels, bags made from recycled safety belts, a tarot room and more, for example, are featured in the brand’s Milan clubhouse. The bathrooms in each clubhouse are also individually designed but all have the same goal: to make visitors smile, pull out their phones and take a selfie. A visit to the WC in Milan will be met with Wonka-like decor, objects and music.
“All the things we sell are from designers with a sustainability story. They don’t have a platform to sell their stuff. They’re small, but we give them a platform,” says Visser. “A majority of people come in and have no idea who Lynk & Co is, and they say ‘Oh, is this a new concept store? Is it a bar? Oh, there’s a car!’ They’re totally confused and then we explain and then word of mouth does the job.” The clubhouse mentality, much like the ethos of the company, is not to sell but to introduce people to the brand’s ethos. It’s also where all of the company’s marketing spend goes—energizing the clubs with content and programming and engaging locals is core to the brand’s ethos.
When the company launched in 2016, people told Visser it was a risk to cater to a small percentage of people who may not want to own a car. Now, Visser tells us, they have “170,000 members in our seven markets where we’re (currently) working. We delivered 28,000 cars, which is not our sales number but the cars that we received because we have many more customers. 20% of our cars that are on the road are being shared.” With goals of expanding to the US and plans to release a fully electric vehicle in the next two years, Lynk & Co is proof that sustainability is possible—if you dare to be different.
Hero image courtesy of Lynk & Co