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New Chinese SUV to attack German carmakers

Chinese automaker Geely is launching a new car brand, 'Lynk & Co.' To signal its global ambition, Geely chose Berlin as the city in which to unveil the first Lynk-branded automobile: an SUV hybrid named 'Lynk 01.'

The Lynk & Co Model 01 (picture at top) will be built in China, but its design is more European than Chinese. Geely - the full name of which is Zhejiang Geely Holding Group - bought Swedish carmaker Volvo from Ford in 2010, with the aim of gaining access to European quality levels in automotive technology.

It appears that bet may be close to paying off. Designed in Sweden under the guidance of British designer Peter Horbury at Geely's China Europe Vehicle Technology Centre, the Lynk 01 will be powered by a 1.5 litre three-cylinder petrol engine combined with a lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor.

The compact plug-in hybrid SUV is meant to appeal to technology-savvy clients. Geely claimed the Model 01 will be the most networked vehicle yet on offer - that's what inspired the new brand-name 'Lynk & Co.' The company said it had teamed up with Swedish electronics company Ericsson as well as Microsoft and Alibaba to deliver the 01 car's connectivity and electronics features.

The Geely GE: An obvious copy of a Rolls-Royce (Getty Images/AFP/Li Xin)

The Geely GE: An obvious copy of a Rolls-Royce. Until now, Chinese carmakers have had a tendency to try to copy European brands. The Lynk & Co Model 01 is an attempt to move past that - albeit by buying in European talent via Volvo

Fit for the 'sharing economy'

Lynk-brand automobiles are designed to fit smoothly into the 'sharing economy': Geely said Lynk owners will be able to easily rent out their vehicles to third parties by means of a Lynk app and a shareable digital key.

"The new '01' car will be the most connected car in the world, designed for a modern, urban audience who are used to collaborative consumption and all the benefits that this brings," said Alain Visser, senior vice president of Lynk & Co.

The company's online ads said: "You don't need to own a car to have one. Buy a car, lease one for as long as you want - or just borrow one anytime without booking ahead."

Car designer Peter Horbury (picture alliance/dpa/K. Sulvora)

Geely may be a Chinese carmaker, but Lynk appears to be more a European than an Asian brand. Development of the car's look was overseen by Englishman Peter Horbury in Sweden

According to Willi Diez, an analyst at the Automotive Industry Institute in Nürtingen-Geislingen, Germany, the carsharing business model being proposed by Geely and by other makers like Tesla, in which car owners can add their private vehicles to a shared pool, is a "gratifying and welcome development." It should lead to environmental gains as well as making the cost of owning a car lower.

Europe-Asia hybrid

The Lynk brand is meant to compete directly with Volkswagen-brand cars, which are enormously popular in China. Sales of 01 will begin in China next year, and in 2018, the SUV will be sold in Europe as well.     

Built on the new "Compact Model Architecture" platform shared with Volvo, the Lynk 01 will have safety features like forward collision warning, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and autonomous emergency braking. Geely has said it intends to pursue top crash-test ratings with the new brand.

Volvo tests self-driving trucks in a mining tunnel (VOLVO TRUCKS)

Volvo has technologies that will allow Chinese carmaker Geely to move up the value chain. Among other things, the Swedish company is testing self-driving trucks in a mining tunnel

The Lynk story won't end with Model 01. Geely's plan is to roll out a series of Lynk models aimed at mid-market buyers, beginning with 01, carrying on through 02, 03, and so on, until a full suite of cars is on offer - ranging from the compact SUV unveiled on Thursday in Berlin to a hatchback.

Lynk & Co is the latest indicator that the automotive world is changing fast - and aiming toward a future, experts say, when self-driving electric cars are summoned by smartphone, pick up a passenger, drop her off at her destination, and then either go on the pick up the next passenger, go to a recharging point, or park themselves and wait for the next summons. 

nz / uhe (DPA, Reuters, Lynk & Co website)

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