Right, anyone fancy a modern and well-specced mid-size crossver for free? There are of course catches, mind. We’ll come to them.
The vehicle in question is the Lynk&Co 01. Say what? Well, this is a new brand with an invented name (‘It just sounded… nice’) from the Geely stable. A stable that also includes among others Volvo, Lotus, Polestar, London Taxis and, in China, Geely itself.
The 01 is, under the skin, the Volvo XC40. It has the same platform, similar Android-derived infotainment and two of the same engines: a three-cylinder hybrid and a PHEV.
It was developed in Sweden and launched in China a couple of years back. But has now been given a new face and interior for Europe, and this version will be built alongside the XC40 in Ghent, Belgium. Looks OK eh?
Anyway, that ‘free car’ bit. Here come the Ts&Cs. First you have to live in one of five European countries where it’s being launched, starting with Sweden and Holland. The UK won’t be until 2022.
Second you have to lease the thing for €500 a month. But then the potential payback comes. You can make ‘your’ car available on the Lynk&Co app and let others pay you to use it.
Anyone with a driving licence can download the same free app. To borrow a car, they check if any ‘owner’ in the neighbourhood is putting theirs up for the time they want to use it. The short-term rental fee is a matter of negotiation between borrower and ‘owner’. If there’s lots of demand presumably the fee goes up.
You don’t even have to meet. The ‘owner’ sends the borrower a virtual key via the app that lets them unlock and start the car.
And so Lynk&Co says that if an ‘owner’ lends their car out often, they can completely offset that monthly €500 price.
What’s included in that fee? Insurance, including for the short-term borrower. Servicing, by a Volvo dealer who collects the car from you and returns it afterward. Tyres. Periodic replacement of the car. Pretty much everything except petrol and electricity and parking.
Almost as an afterthought Lynk&Co adds that you can actually also buy the car the old-fashioned way, but so far hasn’t divulged the price.
To keep the whole business of leasing and borrowing simple, there’s almost no choice. Just one trim level. Two powertrains, hybrid and PHEV. Two colours, blue and black. Henry Ford would’ve approved.
No feature of the Lynk&Co business is unique in itself. Others have no-commitment monthly fees, virtual keys, sharing apps and connected services. Though no other manufacturer has simplified their range and made sharing such a central part of the whole brand.
Will it work? Thing is, right now car sharing has taken a huge knock, on account of COVID precautions. No-one knows when it will come back.
Also, in the early days there will be few 01s on the road. So there’ll be little reason for a non-‘owner’ to download the app on the off-chance they’ll find one to borrow at the time they need it. And if no-one wants to borrow it, there’s no chance of the ‘owner’ making back any, let alone all, of their €500 a month.
But hey, it’s a vision that many people think will be part of the ‘mobility’ (rather than car ownership) future. And a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
STORY Paul Horrell