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Connectivity is a key attribute of the new Lynk & Co 01 (Photo: Geely)

GOTHENBURG -- China's Geely will next year start selling an upmarket global volume brand called Lynk & Co, saying that its first model, the Lynk & Co 01 compact SUV, will be "the most connected car to date."

Seamless and easy-to-use connectivity will be central to the image of the new brand, Geely and Volvo officials said at a press event here. "Connectivity will be to Link & Co what safety is to Volvo," said Mats Faegerhag, the CEO of the China Euro Vehicle Technology (CEVT) center, the research and development unit Volvo and Geely share.

CEVT developed the new architecture for the Link & Co 01. Volvo is owned by Geely.

The new brand, whose first car was unveiled here Wednesday, appears to bridge the gap between Geely's range of volume cars and Volvo's premium vehicles. As a result, it also provides a first clear example of how Volvo and Geely can both benefit from the Chinese company's 2010 acquisition of Volvo.

"With the common architecture, Geely can update its technology and Volvo can get economies of scale," said Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson. He called the cooperation on the joint platform "one of the best examples of pragmatic, concrete synergies."

Geely is betting that the Link & Co 01, which will go on sale in China in late 2017, will appeal to a new generation of tech-savvy consumers that puts high value on connectivity. Hence, the vehicles will be always connected to the internet. Officials said the "Co" in Link & Co is important in part because it signals the importance of being connected.

Drivers will have a large, 10.1 inch central touchscreen that will provide access to connected features. The new Lynk & Co 01 will also have a "share button" that allows an owner to give someone else access to the car via a shareable digital key.

The Lynk & Co cars will have an open application interface (API), which allows third-party developers to quickly add new apps and functions, providing opportunities to let drivers personalize and expand their in-car experience. Geely teamed up with Swedish telecommunications group Ericsson to build its car connectivity cloud.

New retail concepts

With Lynk & Co, Geely also wants to radically change the way cars are sold, foregoing a third-party dealer network in most parts of the world, and counting instead on online sales and a network of company-owned stores in strategic retail locations. In China, however, the brand will most likely use existing Geely dealerships.

"Our aim is to enrich and simplify car ownership by redefining how they are bought, owned, connected, serviced and used," Lynk & Co senior vice president Alain Visser said at a press event here.

As part of the strategy, the new brand will offer traditional ownership models as well as leasing and car-sharing options. "What makes this car unique is both the product and the business model," Visser said.

lynk-01-300x225 The Lynk & Co 01 (Photo: Geely)

Lynk & Co has partnered with Microsoft and Chinese internet giant Alibaba to build what it calls "a whole new digital customer infrastructure" for the auto industry. It offers digital order bookings, sales and CRM systems and custom applications for user interaction.

"Lynk & Co is born digital," the company's chief digital officer, David Green, said. "The lack of legacy systems and the ability to build solutions in the cloud enable us to depart from the old model of car sales and service to bring the customer seamlessly through an omnichannel platform."

Geely noted that distribution costs, on average, represent 25 percent of the price of a car. Lynk & Co's new retail approach will deliver significant savings, it said, which will allow competitive pricing of the new models.

Lynk & Co will not offer a large number of different car configurations. Instead, the brand will have "a simple selection of fully equipped, fixed-price collections themed to meet customer preferences."

Sharing a platform

The Lynk & Co 01 is designed and engineered in Sweden. It will be built on the compact modular architecture (CMA) that Volvo and Geely have jointly developed. It will come with various powertrains and there will be a hybrid-electric version from the start. There are also plans for a full electric version, but no date has been set.

The new car will have the kind of advanced driver assistance systems that are rapidly becoming standard across the industry. The car will have forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and other such safety features.

Geely and Volvo cooperated on the engineering and technology of the models that will be built on the CMA platform. Volvo's new compact car range will also use the platform. The first of these cars, a new Volvo XC40, will be launched next year.

In the development of the Link & Co 01, the CEVT center relied heavily on digital simulation, which allowed much faster development of the CMA platform than would have been possible with traditional methods. Said CEVT's Faegerhag: "Computer-aided engineering was an integral part of how we developed the vehicle."

-By Arjen Bongard