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Lynk & CO picks San Francisco as U.S. beachhead

The Lynk & CO 01 crossover, shown, will share its underpinnings with the Volvo XC40.
UPDATED: 4/20/17 03:38 a.m. - new story

SHANGHAI -- China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group will launch Lynk & CO in San Francisco and Berlin in a bid to give the new marque a foothold in the key U.S. and European markets.

“Because Lynk & CO will be the first brand to offer its owners the possibility to share their cars when they are not used, we are starting from cities with a high penetration of shared- economy services," said Alain Visser, Lynk & CO's senior vice president of marketing and sales. "So that means Berlin in Europe and San Francisco in the United States.”

Last year Visser said the current car distribution model is "broken” because outsourcing sales to dealers robs automakers of margins as well as the opportunity to build up their brand image.

While Lynk & CO plans to set itself apart by emphasizing Internet sales, it also wants to build a network of more than 500 company-owned dealerships, which Visser said will be in big shopping malls. The network will include flagship stores and temporary pop-up stores in cities.

Lynk will start U.S. and European sales a little later than planned as it seeks to establish a company-owned dealership network.

“We think we will start in Europe between the first quarter and the first half of 2019 and enter the U.S. some months later,” Visser said at the Shanghai auto show here.

Originally, Lynk planned to debut in both markets in late 2018, starting with sales of the 01 compact crossover.

Photo credit: REUTERS

It is taking longer than expected to secure the locations to display the vehicles. Despite having stores, all of the Chinese brand's vehicles will be ordered online and customers will receive delivery at their homes or offices, Visser said.

Visser, who previously worked for Volvo and Opel, confirmed that Lynk & CO's China plans are on track. The 01 will go on sale by year end, followed in mid-2018 by the 02, a model whose vehicle type is undisclosed.

The 03 compact sedan, which was previewed with a concept model this week at the Shanghai show, will arrive in late 2018.

Lynk & CO officials said discussions are underway about whether Europe and the U.S. will receive the 03 sedan and the 02, which sources say could be a sporty hatchback.

Visser confirmed that Lynk & CO expects to sell more than 500,000 vehicles globally starting in 2020, with 55 percent of volume coming from China and the remainder evenly split between Europe and the United States.

Earlier this week Lynk & CO said the upstart brand will offer lifetime warranties and free connectivity as standard features.

Volvo expertise

Lynk & CO's lineup will be underpinned by the compact modular architecture that Geely developed with Volvo. The Swedish automaker will use that for its 40-series compact vehicles, which will be built alongside Lynk models in the southeast China city of Luqiao.

Volvo's factory in Ghent, Belgium, also will produce vehicles built on the new platform, which has led to speculation that Lynk vehicles would also be produced in Belgium. Transportation costs and tariffs would make it difficult for Lynk to make money on its European sales unless the cars are produced locally.

Lynk plans to use Volvo's dealership network or independent dealers for servicing and spare parts.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com

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