Lynk & Co CEO Calls the Auto Industry a Bunch of Sustainability Hypocrites

According to Alain Vissier, car-sharing and subscriptions are the only sustainable way to make cars. Coincidentally, that's Lynk & Co's main business model.

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Lynk & Co 01
Photo: Lynk & Co

Lynk & Co, a Chinese-Swedish automaker owned by Volvo’s parent company Geely, has been working for years to make subscriptions and car-sharing work. In Europe, €550 per month gets you behind the wheel of a Lynk & Co 01, with maintenance and insurance included. Unlike a traditional lease, it’s entirely month-to-month, and the company allows you to rent the car to other users when you’re not using it. Apparently, Lynk & Co’s CEO is frustrated that more automakers haven’t moved to a similar business model, for sustainability’s sake.

Australia’s CarSales reports that, while speaking at the recent opening of a Lynk & Co facility, CEO Alain Vissier told journalists, “Sustainability is a buzzword. No car company is sustainable. The cars they make could make a difference to the environment, yes, but they do nothing more than 95 percent of the time and that’s not right. Environmentally, they’re hypocrites.”

The executive reportedly added, “New cars are cleaner on the road than older cars, but they have high amounts of CO2 from production. The only way to equalize that CO2 is to drive them more so the on-road advantages come into play, but that isn’t happening. That only happens when you share the cars with more than one user.”

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Lynk & Co claims to currently serve about 27,000 customers in Europe, which isn’t exactly a massive number. And it also claims some customers rent their cars out frequently enough that their rental income covers their monthly lease amount — netting out to a free car. But it’s a different story in China, where customers balked at the subscription and car-share model.

“In China, it’s a very different business model,” said Vissier. “I almost decoupled from that side of the business. The Chinese customers felt insulted by our business model. They prefer to buy the cars outright, and you can do that here [in Europe] too, but we decided some years ago that we should change that business model in China.”

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But while other automakers have tried subscriptions, including failed programs from Volvo and Porsche, Vissier said he didn’t think anyone else was being serious about it. “Nobody is following us. Everybody now talks subscription, but it’s marketing blah-blah, because it’s short-term leasing, not subscription,” he claimed.

Beyond subscriptions, Vissier really wants to double down on car sharing, and he had some strong words for other automakers who don’t follow suit. “Am I saying we are the most sustainable car company? No, I’m not. That would be an exaggeration, but we do have that ambition. The car industry today is unsustainable so we try to change that, and if a company doesn’t have a sustainability strategy, it doesn’t deserve to have either customers or employees.”

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On the one hand, he kind of has a point. Even if you drive your car four hours a day, that still leaves 20 hours where it’s just sitting. But convincing people to give up on the idea of private car ownership is a serious uphill battle. Maybe Lynk & Co will be successful in convincing non-enthusiasts to buy into its business model, but it certainly won’t be easy.