Lynk & Co shows first pics of Volvo-developed 03 sedan prototype

Sleek four-door with car-sharing tech shown ahead of Shanghai Motor Show.

Lynk & Co

Lynk & Co, the new automaker with Chinese money and manufacturing, and Volvo's engineering resources, has just previewed its 03 Concept, a design prototype that is the second vehicle the startup has shown in just five months.

Leaning heavily on the styling language first established with the 01 Concept, the car is set to roll under the klieg lights at the Shanghai Motor Show this week, but for now, we've got these first images of the sedan. The car is expected to ride atop a similar chassis as the 01 crossover SUV, which means it likely employs a version of the Compact Modular Architecture shared with sister brand Volvo.

The 03 Concept four-door looks similar in size to the 01 crossover, so it's reasonable to expect that it too will be powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder gas engine backed by an electric motor. The 01 crossover is also expected to be made available with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and there's talk of both pure electric and plug-in hybrid models in its future, all of which would likely extend to a production 01 sedan.

The 03 Concept is considered a design prototype, but it looks awfully production-ready.

Lynk & Co

Penned under the watchful eyes of superstar designer Peter Horbury, executive vice president design at Geely Auto Group (best known for transforming Volvo's lineup), the 03 carries a similar nose graphic as the 01, including its unique fender-top headlamps and broad, narrow slit grille. Its overall proportions are quite traditional, yet rather sporty, particularly thanks to details like its blacked-out roof and complex five-spoke wheels.

Lynk & Co has already announced that it plans to have cars on the market later this year in China, with aggressive plans to enter the US and Europe a year or so later.

In fact, Lynk & Co's most compelling selling points aren't likely to be its vehicles themselves, but rather the way consumers can purchase and use them. Unlike today's legacy carmakers, this Chinese company is looking to establish itself in markets without traditional franchised dealers, an innovative distribution model that Tesla Motors has been rolling out to significant institutionalized resistance.

Lynk & Co is calling for small, company-owned showrooms and pop-ups in urban areas, with vehicles picked up and delivered to consumers for service. That's not entirely dissimilar to the sales model put forth by Elon Musk's outfit. Tesla has found battling US state franchise laws and powerful local dealer groups with a similar plan to be tough, time-intensive sledding, though it has made progress.

The automaker envisions fully loaded, mono-spec cars that can be purchased online at a fixed price, with buyers worrying about little more than color choice. While traditional leasing and purchase options will be available, the company is also readying a pay-as-you-go subscription model, where motorists pay for vehicle usage on an on-demand basis instead of making payments toward actual ownership.

A touchscreen developed with Microsoft and Alibaba will be the heart of Lynk & Co cars.

Lynk & Co

Lynk & Co also intends to go after the car-sharing market right out of the gate, with what it is calling "the world's first in-car digital share function." It has developed an app with Ericsson that uses digital keys, and personalized settings including seating positions and stereo memory presets are expected to be part of a user's profile so that they can be transferred seamlessly from vehicle to vehicle. The company announced plans to have a public demonstration of this new app-based tech at a Shanghai event today, and also announced a lifetime warranty on every car, as well as free data usage for connectivity purposes.

All of this is nothing if not ambitious. But with the financial backing and manufacturing expertise of one of China's biggest car companies, Geely, combined with the advanced safety and design expertise of Volvo, it would appear that Lynk & Co may actually have a better chance at long-term success than legions of other startup automakers.

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