Alain Visser, a seasoned veteran in the automotive industry with 36 years of experience, had a significant culture shock when he became CEO of Lynk & Co Europe seven years ago, which is owned by China's Geely Auto Group. In his own words, “It's shocking, it's shocking, it's shocking.” He was surprised at how quickly things got done, which was a stark contrast to his previous employers, General Motors and Ford. “What took me three months to get approved at any of the previous companies that I had worked with takes a week with Geely, it's just unbelievable. It takes a week here,” he said.
Despite the culture shock, Visser invented the month-to-month subscription model at Lynk & Co, a model that has now been copied by many other car companies. The monthly membership allows people to have a brand new car at 550 euros ($585) a month that also includes insurance and maintenance. Members can cancel any time and can also use a sharing platform to share their cars when they are not using it, thereby lowering their monthly cost.
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Visser explained that the subscription model was based on the research of global trends. People now spend more time doing things instead of buying things and they feel experience is more important than ownership, citing the example of vacation rental company Airbnb, which would have been regarded as a crazy idea 20 years ago. He added that there is also greater need for mobility and sustainability.
Visser felt it was hypocritical for car brands to claim sustainability by just offering electric cars. “If your business is built on selling as many cars as possible that stand still for 95 percent of the time, that's not sustainable,” he said. The company's monthly subscription model offers Lynk & Co 01, a 5-door plug-in hybrid compact crossover SUV. Customers only need to make one choice between two colors: black or blue.
Instead of the traditional showrooms, Lynk & Co gets most of businesses online or at its 11 clubs in European cities. The clubs, unlike car dealerships, look more like a bar and a lifestyle shop, and are places for people to catch events, meet other members, find local art and explore brands that Lynk & Co executives say inspire them in work.
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Visser said as sister brand of Geely-owned Volvo has helped Lynk & Co in Europe, Lynk & Co's funky style has also been a plus for Volvo. He expressed that Europeans are surprised by the good quality of Chinese-made cars coming to Europe. “I think the reputation of Chinese products is rapidly changing from cheap copies to original and high quality,” he said.
According to a recent study by PwC, up to 800,000 Chinese-made cars could be sold in Europe by 2025, most of them full-electric vehicles. Despite Lynk & Co's brand awareness in Europe being only 7 percent, Visser is optimistic. He said that Germany will soon become the company's top market. “You start thinking about the potential once people really know us,” he said.