Reinventing the market

Lynk & Co Senior Vice President Alain Visser tells Alex Kreetzer what it takes to distinguish a new brand from the rest of the competition in the challenging global market.

New car brands from the east have been trying to break into the western market for some time now, struggling in extremely competitive regions dominated by homegrown automakers. These new players are focusing on innovative ways to utilise a car, from both a consumer and business perspective, such as ridesharing, connected car technology and, above all, disruptive business models. This is what these companies hope to capitalise on, being more flexible and innovative than existing OEMs in the developing market, yet they continue to be snubbed by their lack of ‘western-personality’. Businesses are becoming isolated from some of the largest markets in world, such as the US and Europe, unable to break into them without ‘Americanising’ their brand. However, we are now starting to see emerging brands from the east who have successfully marketed their brand for the western market, finally breaking through the culture barrier and piling the pressure on established OEMs.

Lynk & Co, an innovative brand formed by Chinese car giant Geely, is the perfect example of this. The company wants to change the way people operate their vehicles, implementing such innovations within its vehicles as a ‘share’ button that allows drivers to rent out their car to others which could, fundamentally, pay off the cost of the car. This simple yet revolutionising idea will certainly prove its worth in the future, as there is little need for anyone to own a car in this modern age. Lynk & Co's first vehicle, the 01, has many innovations like this that will exploit the modern automotive market but, most importantly, it has achieved a neutral identity through its design that will see it attract a wider audience across the globe. Unlike other foreign automakers, Lynk & Co will market the brand in a way that caters for a range of markets, from the neutral design to even the name. In addition, by strategically capitalising on the lack of ‘driving-enthusiasm’ found within the automotive industry, the 01 will lure customers who do not really care about specific car brands, simply wanting their vehicle to get them from A to B. This puts the automaker in a very positive position.

What also helps the emerging brand separate itself from the pool of new players is the experience found throughout the company, credited to Geely and Volvo. Lynk & Co’s talent consists of a range of skilled executives such as British designer Peter Horbury, who led Volvo’s design division back in the 1990s and worked with such global brands as Aston Martin, Ford and Jaguar. Another automotive veteran working with the upcoming automaker is Alain Visser, the Geely executive who has been tasked with developing the Lynk & Co brand for global success. Unlike many rivals who persist with what they are currently doing, Visser’s brand asks the unanswered question: “Why has the world changed but cars haven’t?” It is time for a revolution, and someone has to lead the industry.

Reinventing processes

Visser says that Lynk & Co’s range of products have been designed for the global market: “The vehicles will appeal to buyers across the world: from east to west and, for that matter, north to south.” Being developed and engineered in Gothenburg, Sweden, the brand illustrates this international focus, utilising Volvo’s manufacturing capabilities within its facilities. Operating in Sweden means that Lynk & Co is strategically positioned not just for the European market, but is also in a beneficial position for distribution to both the US and Asian markets. The first models will arrive in China by the end of this year, before the automaker expands into other markets, so it is important that it has plans in place for global expansion.

Lynk & Co’s global push will also revolutionise the automotive industry by introducing a new process of buying, selling, using and operating vehicles - something that has been out of date in the industry for a while now. These developments could radically wipe out dealerships across the country for example, which would create a much stronger bond between the manufacturer and customer. “While the industry traditionally relies heavily on a dealership model, we will interact directly with our customers. Lynk & Co vehicles will be sold online or in owned stores in strategic retail locations, with fixed and transparent prices,” adds Visser. In addition, cars will be delivered to customers’ homes and picked up whenever they needs servicing, eliminating time-consuming tasks and providing solutions for car usage and access issues. It is refreshing to see that new players like this are looking forward not just with their product, but across the entire industry.

New solutions for car usage such as this, coupled with leasing, subscriptions and sharing, will revolutionise the way we perceive the modern automobile. By eliminating dealerships, Lynk & Co has removed the high costs for the seller and has saved time for the buyer, which will further entice new buyers who, ultimately, cannot be bothered or simply do not have the time for this ancient process. “We have abandoned the traditional concept of meagre base models and long option lists that create infinite build configurations and costs in manufacturing,” Vissers adds.

Moving forward

Inspired by the technology sector and the overwhelming effect that the introduction of Apple’s iPhone had on the global market, Visser says that the 01 “will replace option lists with a simple selection of fully-equipped, fixed-price collections themed to meet customer preferences and millennial habits in the modern age.” Much like the iPhone, which revolutionised the global mobile phone market, Lynk & Co will transform the way that consumers buy cars, focusing on what the modern customer demands. The iPhone pushed simplicity and usability, which was met with unparalleled success, still leading the market today. Visser was encouraged by the “revolutionary change that innovation and technology can bring about” from Apple’s success, channeling this kind of energy into the digitally-focused 01 SUV. By utilising simplicity through infotainment and connected software for its consumers, the brand has blurred the lines between transportation and mobility. “Lynk & Co is born digital and that is our overriding aim for the entire brand,” he assures. If Visser’s brand has the same effect that Apple had, it could wipe out automakers that do not adapt quickly enough - just look at where Blackberry and Nokia are today.

Yet, both the technology and automotive industries need one another to progress in the fluid market, combining manufacturing capabilities with software specialists. This is why it is extremely important to create partnerships with a range of players from both sides to fuel success. Lynk & Co collaborates closely with such global players as Microsoft, Ericsson and Alibaba, which are all helping it build a new digital customer infrastructure for the car industry, with new digital order, supply, sales and CRM systems along with custom applications for user interaction and cloud systems. Visser says that “all of these partnerships are born out of a desire for progress.”

Above all, Geely plays a large part in Lynk & Co’s development, sharing a platform with the Swedish automaker and is aligned within the group’s business structure. “We are strongly encouraged by our partnership with Geely and its outstanding stewardship of the Volvo brand proves that Lynk & Co is in the best possible hands to introduce a new car and concept to the world,” Visser explains. The 01 will predominately share the Compact Modular Architecture with the Volvo brand, which will introduce the quality and safety we are so used to seeing from the Swedish brand into the range of future Lynk & Co vehicles.

The next step for Visser and Lynk & Co is how it will move forward and continue to distinguish itself from other competitive brands. What can it do to surpass the flood of new players in the developing automotive market? Visser says “the world doesn’t necessarily need another new car brand,” but believes that “the automotive space needs a new business and usership model. This is where Lynk & Co differentiates from the standardised model.”

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