Alain Visser, CEO of Lynk & Co (1): ‘We go for another business model’
The Belgian Alain Visser is Lynk & Co’s CEO, the Chinese Geely daughter who intends to change things on the car market. Many new and sometimes controversial ideas come from or are stimulated by the CEO — no better reason for having a chat with him.
We’ve known Alain Visser for a long time. Already when he was the CEO of Ford Belgium, he had this invaluable quality of appealing to people. We remember him also as the big star of a ‘big style’ Opel Corsa launch in London.
After a long career with Ford, Visser had moved to the arch-rival GM to lead the marketing division in Europe. His ‘show in the show’ was brilliant, charismatic, faultless. From the ‘event master’ of the show, we got the info that he was at the same time flexible enough to adapt himself to the expectations of the organizers and confident enough to make his own show of it.
When moving to the US’s GM headquarters, he quickly collided with other big shots about some future strategies and decided to quit the car sector altogether. But old habits die hard. When suddenly Volvo asked him to join them in steering the ‘Chinese’ Swede to success, he couldn’t resist.
Alain Visser is also one of the first who put a question mark after the obligation to be present at all ‘big’ motor shows on earth. He decided that Volvo would attend three, Geneva in Europe, one in the US, and one in China. That’s it.
To prove that he could also be lenient and understanding, he found a ‘Belgian’ solution for the Brussels Motor Show. Together with the Belgian MD, he concocted that the Brussels show was, in fact, a ‘vendor’s fair’, so Volvo could continue to support the event.
Some four years ago, he left the Swedes for a new challenge under the Geely umbrella, developing a new brand that wants to establish itself a unique position on the market. Technically, until now, Lynk & Co leans heavily on its Volvo sister, its first car (the ’01’) being very close to Volvo’s small XC40 SUV, but style- and marketing-wise it wants to be totally different.
Lynk & Co positions itself as a global brand. Taking Volvo’s technical parentage into account, the first intention was to build the Lynk & Co 01 also in Ghent, the home turf of the small Volvo models. But as the launch of the brand took some delay, and the success of the XC40 was even better than expected, plans to produce in Ghent are in the fridge for now.
“But in the long term, I would like to produce also in Europe,” comments Visser. “To me, the flexibility and the proximity of producing local are more important than possible price differences between countries or continents.”
Another business model
“Take a look at the statistics,” Visser continues. “A growing number of people are hesitating about buying a car. It’s an expensive object sitting numb along the road or in the garage for 96% of its lifetime. How can one see this as a good investment?”
“Even my own sons ask me, ‘Daddy, what did you do with your life?’ What you’re doing is completely unsustainable; you can’t continue like this. So we decided to go for another business model, to stop trying to sell cars like all others (still) do, but to try to sell mobility.”
“I know that everyone is pretending to do the same nowadays, but in our business model of membership, of sharing a car, of paying a monthly fee for mobility, with a contract terminable every month, I think we are unique.”
Tomorrow, in our second part of the interview with Alain Visser, we will take a closer look at this model and his thoughts about the car industry: “For 100 years now, the car industry is doing the same thing over and over again. They think of themselves as being progressive or even revolutionary. I think they’re not.”