A few years ago, as a design director of Volvo Cars, Andreas Nilsson was given a blank piece of paper to design the first vehicles for Lynk & CO, the new brand planned by Volvo's parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China.
It was the sort of design opportunity the auto industry rarely sees anymore.
"We needed to create something new and unique, with no history or heritage to rely on," Nilsson said. "There were no design guidelines; we had no brand recognition."
The opportunity was so big that Nilsson gave up his job at Volvo to tackle the as-yet-unnamed brand.
"It was very inspiring," said Nilsson, now Lynk & CO head of design and a senior vice president at Geely. "But once you start sketching, it's not that easy. It was eye-opening about how difficult it is to create something unique from scratch."
The results are now out there for the automotive world to see: Geely reached into Volvo for resources, but came away with a vehicle that looks nothing like a Volvo.
The Lynk 01 compact crossover is on sale in China, to be followed by the 02, a more sports-oriented crossover, and the 03 midsize sedan. The brand plans to sell vehicles in the U.S. and, by early 2020, in Europe, executives said this year.
Lynk & CO hopes to shake up the traditional retail and ownership model with a no-initial-payment subscription plan, with no-haggle pricing, online vehicle shopping and software that facilitates car-sharing. Other automakers, including its sibling brand Volvo, also are exploring subscriptions as the industry diversifies into providing mobility in all its forms.
"The main difference between Lynk and other brands is that our objective is to sell mobility," said Alain Visser, Lynk & CO senior vice president.