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Lynk & CO readies China-built hybrid SUVs for Europe

Lynk & CO is preparing to launch its first model, the 01 compact SUV, in Europe this month with hybrid drivetrains and a different interior than Chinese versions, which went on sale in 2017.

Lynk & CO, part of Geely Zhejiang Holdings’ automotive portfolio that also includes Volvo Cars, Polestar and Lotus, is basing its European business model on what it calls a membership plan.

Members can sign up to use a Lynk & CO 01 for as little as one month, at a cost of 500 euros ($586) a month, and can cancel with 30 days’ notice.

The monthly cost includes insurance and maintenance, and participants in the program are encouraged to reduce their costs by sharing their vehicles with others through a Lynk & CO app. The cars can be shared with anyone who registers on the app, Lynk & CO executives said Wednesday in an online event to announce the start of sales.

Alain Visser, Lynk & CO’s CEO, did not offer sales or membership targets, but he said that the brand’s membership model was based on global consumer trends, including a shift from ownership to experiences. 

“A lot of people still want mobility, they want to drive a car, but they don’t necessarily want to own one,” he said. 

Lynk & CO is one of the more ambitious attempts by car companies to offer alternatives to ownership. Results so far have been mixed — while Porsche recently expanded its U.S. subscription service, Mercedes-Benz pulled the plug on a pilot project it started two years ago. GM shut down its Maven car-sharing business earlier this year. Volvo offers a subscription service called Care by Volvo.

The 01 will be available to buy in Europe, with prices to be announced in the coming weeks. The first deliveries of the China-built 01 will be in early April. 

Lynk & CO’s original business plan called for the 01 to be built alongside the Volvo XC40 in Ghent, Belgium, starting last year. Those plans were scrapped as Volvo had to reconfigure its global manufacturing network in response to trade barriers. Both vehicles use Volvo and Geely’s jointly developed CMA underpinnings.

In addition to a new interior, the 01 has been adjusted for the European market with a restyled front end and hybrid-only powertrains.

A full hybrid will be offered with a 143-hp gasoline engine and 50-hp electric motor as well as a plug-in hybrid with 180-hp gasoline engine and 75-hp electric motor. The plug-in hybrid has an electric-only range of nearly 70 km (44 miles), Lynk & CO said.

The chassis has also been tuned for European roads, and the 01 has been homologated to meet EU safety standards.

Lynk & CO is not promoting the membership model in China, Visser said, because drivers there still prize car ownership. The brand is a joint venture between Volvo Cars and Geely Automotive. 

Lynk & CO executives are deliberately limiting the options on the 01 to facilitate deliveries. Buyers or “members” can choose one of the two hybrid powertrains, and either dark blue or black exterior paint.

The 01 comes standard with a full suite of driver assistance, entertainment and safety features, including hands-free parking, blind-spot warnings, a 10-speaker stereo system, adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping, and a “journey camera” function that lets occupants record their travels with a front-facing camera or one that takes “selfies” in the interior.

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