04 Nov 2020 • Retail
Why cars are not the focal point of Lynk & Co’s first ‘anti-dealership’
Chinese-Swedish automobile industry disruptor Lynk & Co has opened its first flagship in Amsterdam, designed in collaboration with S-p-a-c-e Projects.
You can’t choose from an artist’s palette of colours and finishes, a range of tech specs, luxury add-ons or even different models. But such is the literal driving force for consumers to choose Lynk & Co cars – simplicity, reliability and flexibility are key for the growing mobility brand. Situated between the Chinese Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and Volvo, Lynk & Co’s mission is to offer people vehicles by means of a membership-based sharing platform, effectively reducing the cost of personal ownership and the number of cars on streets. A radical mobility concept required a radical rethink of the dealership space: Lynk & Co eschews the sales-driven hubs for community-centric gathering places. Its first physical space, in Amsterdam, is the result of a collaboration with the local studio S-p-a-c-e Projects.
‘One American study said that 30% of American car buyers would rather go to a dentist than to a dealership,’ says Lynk & Co CEO Alain Visser, ‘and that’s unfortunately the reputation of this industry. So making something really bad better cannot be the option – let’s do something fundamentally different. That's why for us it's a car and "other stuff": the car doesn't change, so it’s about creating things that attract people beyond the car.’ The approach of incorporating retail, hospitality and events into the flagship reflects what Visser believes need to be a broader reshaping in mobility. ‘There has to be a time where the answer cannot be “sell more cars so that everybody has a car”,’ he explains. ‘The answer needs to be to utilize the cars out there better – 96% of the time cars are not used. So let’s not put more out there: let’s use the ones that are, or sell mobility contracts rather than cars.’
One American study said that 30% of American car buyers would rather go to a dentist than to a dealership
Visser’s line of reasoning explains why the Amsterdam flagship, and each that follow it (Gothenburg, Sweden is next), will be porous. While we spoke at its opening, a handful of passersby attempted to check out the new space. ‘I like that about the city,’ he said. ‘People are curious and they look for the new thing.’ Exclusivity is not the name of the game, which is why people are invited to come and shop or drink and dine no matter if they have interested in becoming members. ‘We welcome everybody: it’s about people with a young mindset, whether they're 20, or or 70, or 80, whether they're urban or rural – it doesn't matter.’
The idea behind the space was to create a community for members to hang out, engage and connect with different brands and creators. ‘Uber is a super convenient mobility brand, for example,’ Visser explains. ‘But it doesn’t have any emotion behind it. We aimed to create these emotions with the interior and music, with everything.’ All of the products and decor – even the cutlery and dishware in the café area – are for sale. Apparel, accessories and items are merchandized around the concrete-dominant space on display elements forged from recycled car scraps and paper pulp. Most components within the interior are modular and moveable, in order to host the event programming which Visser and his team aim to facilitate.
‘We want to have an event twice a week at least, whether that be a DJ set, fashion show, cocktail mixers or something else.’ ‘There is a serious sound system, light system and enough air supply to give a serious party at this place [post-pandemic, naturally],’ S-p-a-c-e Projects’ Pepijn Smit told Frame. Ambient meeting rooms – one entirely padded to impressive acoustic effect, and another red-lit like a nightclub – are nooks of privacy in the otherwise open space. At the back entrance, there’s a light installation that simulates the sunset and sunrise — ‘the moment you most often use your car’, Smit explains.
You don't want to show off with your product but instead make a statement as a brand
And then, of course, there’s the car: one car, Lynk & Co’s only model (available as a hybrid electric or plug-in hybrid). Away from the display windows and entry of the space, it’s placement is highly atypical for the flagship of an automobile brand. In fact, you’ve got to look to find it as it’s partially obscured within a cage-like structure ‘like a beast’, past the front café and meeting area. Visser shared eyewear brand Gentle Monster as one of his retail inspirations. ‘The glasses are almost like a side product in their stores. I like that: you don't want to show off with your product but instead make a statement as a brand.’ Essentially, he shares, the company wants to get away from the automobile industry’s standard messaging. ‘All the car commercials with people driving down a windy road saying “we have the best car” is just so boring.’
According to Lynk & Co’s statistics, there are between ‘nine and 10%’ of people waiting for a new type of car brand. 'Our business model is not based on 10% of the car population,’ Visser said. ‘It's much lower than that. So if we only get a part of that group, we're doing well. We know that the majority will say no, I'm not ready for this kind of sharing model. We just think there's enough people who are ready for that. And they don't have an alternative.’ Of course, with COVID-19, ‘more people will question if buying a car is the right option today in a world that is uncertain’. The market’s resulting readiness to explore different transportation alternatives and rising willingness to participate in the sharing economy are good signs ahead.