The automotive industry has off late been a hub for innovation and new ideas. Companies like Tesla, Uber, Lyft, and Google have been innovating at rapid pace in the areas of ride-sharing and autonomous driving. With that being said, a new player has stepped into the race to revolutionize transportation and car ownership. It’s called LYNK & CO, born out of Gothenburg, Sweden.
The Car is not a Car.
These are the first words that show up when you click on the tab to learn more about the vehicle itself. This is followed by:
The Car is an App
The Car is a Platform
The Car is a Hub
The Car is a Club
The Car is a Bike
The Car is an Idea
The Car is a Key
The Car is a Service
The Car is a Revolution
Don’t worry, it still is a car. It’s just apparently a lot of other things as well.
LYNK & CO’s vehicle, the 01, was created thanks to a collaboration with Volvo, who has the same parent company as LYNK. While all the details are not all out yet, the car will most likely be electric or hybrid, and may incorporate the autonomous technology that Volvo has been working on. While the car is beautiful and pretty stylish, it’s the tech and business model that makes this company stand out.
So what makes this company so interesting?
From a business model perspective, they are adjusting to modern times and the popularity of the sharing economy by allowing groups of people to purchase a car. In other words, if there are a group of friends, they all can split the cost of the car and have their own individual, and personalized key (which is just an app, not a physical key). This comprehensive app will allow for this group of friends to reserve the car for x amount of hours. Another possibility is full ownership of the car. What’s cool about this is that if an individual buys the 01 they can rent it out to others when they are not using it, like when they are at work for the day or on vacation. This is a great way to earn money off of something you own, as opposed to the traditional practice of owning a car, driving it for x years, and then selling it or dumping it to buy a new one. Finally, there may also be the option to lease the 01 for a monthly fee. A great part of this business model is that you never have to take this car to a shop or garage for maintenance or repairs. LYNK & CO will send someone to get your car, leave a replacement car, and bring your car back to you; and it’s all included in the price of the car.
The tech aspect is even cooler.
As I mentioned before, the app will automatically charge each individual based on how much each person drives if a friend group is leasing the car. This is great because it makes sure that things are fair and that people are paying the right amount for how much they use the car. Also, this app is so much more than a key. It is your access to the LYNK & CO ecosystem. As a car owner, you can put your car up for rent, and as a renter, you get to access a map that shows all the 01 cars near you. From here you can choose the car you want to take and it will give a notification to the owner, who will get info on your entire profile similar to when you use uber and see the driver’s profile. When the owner confirms the request, a temporary key for that specific car is sent to the renter’s LYNK app, and it can be driven as long as it is back by the specified time that the owner has chosen. Check out this short one minute video outlining the whole process, it does a much better job at explaining it than I can.
Another key differentiator is their commitment to collaboration. They have made their entire project open source, saying:
“We’ve opened LYNK & CO to the world. It’s an open platform. All the car’s sensors, systems and software – open.”
Their idea is that they want people to constantly contribute to LYNK & CO and tell them about their ideas. From there, LYNK wants to work with these independent thinkers to make their ideas a reality. This means that developers will be able to make apps for the large 10 inch touch screen within the car, and these apps can be bought from the LYNK app store. This is a wonderful concept because it means that LYNK will not be limited to innovation from within the company. New ideas can come from anyone, making potential for growth and added uniqueness exponentially higher.
This is a tremendous idea, and it sure does have a lot of backing from big names like Volvo and their parent company, Geely. LYNK & CO vehicles are already planned to debut in 2017 in China, and then move to Europe and the US over 2018-19. In China, LYNK plans to have physical stores where customers can test out the car, as well as online stores where people can order the car and have it shipped right to their doorstep. All online transactions will be facilitated by Alibaba, which is an online retail behemoth in China. This partnership between LYNK & CO and Alibaba is definitely a great sign that LYNK is a legitimate player in the automotive industry and that it is being taken seriously.
On the other hand, I do have some serious concerns. In the midst of all these companies entering into the tech/automotive industry, I don’t know if LYNK is unique enough to stand out. It definitely has a very different approach to the car experience, but I am not sure if it will gain that much traction. There are already mega-companies like Uber and Tesla who are dominating in this space, and they definitely have the capital and manpower to add aspects of LYNK to their existing business model, making LYNK an unnecessary company. For example, Tesla is already working on renting out your car to others when you don’t need it, as seen in Elon Musk’s Master Plan, Part Deux.
So, What Do You Think?
Do you like LYNK & CO’s idea and their business model? Do you think they can penetrate this industry and take over a sizable portion of this already crowded market?