words & interview by Marie-Pauline Cesari

Lynk & Co is a car brand. But it’s not a car brand either 

Lynk & Co revolutionized the car market by introducing a new way of driving and owning a car. Lynk & Co’s concept is to offer its vehicles for purchase online, delivered to the customer’s home, allowing them to share their vehicle with other Lynk & Co customers. It’s a fully connected approach, from purchase to opening the car.  But much more than just a car concept, Lynk & Co is above all a community of individuals, gathered in Clubs in Europe’s most beautiful cities. Numero NL has close links with Lynk & Co, as we are lucky enough to benefit from the Amsterdam Club. 
A concept store, a trendy bar, a showcase for their cars and a place to meet and work, … The clubs are all these things at once, but above all they reflect the passion for art and fashion of Alain Visser, the founder of the brand. 

We were lucky enough to meet Alain in Barcelona for the Off Week Festival, an event to which we were invited by the brand. This year indeed, Lynk & Co and Offweek Festival joined forces to make Barcelona a reference for electronic music. Offweek Festival is one of the most important events for electronic music lovers in Europe. 

Hello Alain. For readers who don’t already know you, could you introduce yourself in a few sentences and tell us about your passion for cars? 

I got into the car industry purely by coincidence, believe it or not. I studied languages in Belgium, and then I received an offer from Ford, Belgium for a very low-level marketing job as an interim. So, I started there. During the interview, I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t get the job because I still wanted to have a year of travel. However, I ended up getting the job and was disappointed.
That’s how my journey in the car industry began, and 36 years later, I’m still a part of it. I spent 17 years working for Ford, then nine years with General Motors, and four years with Volvo. In 2015, I left Volvo where I had a team of 4,000 people.

On October 1, 2015, I started my own venture from scratch. I didn’t have an office or any employees. I went to a furniture shop, bought tables and chairs, and began my real startup. So now, I see my job as both my hobby and a personal rebellion against my own past. I have two sons, aged 24 and 28, who live in London. Around seven or eight years ago, they asked me what I had done my whole life since I was always traveling. After a few moments of reflection, I realized that I had only been selling cars. It was a realization that made me think, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want to die or retire with just that.’
That’s when I decided I needed to do something that I could truly be proud of. Then, an opportunity came along to start a new brand, and I took it. I did what I believed was the right thing. So, for me, this job is more than just a job. It’s my passion and my personal mission to transform an industry that I find dull and hypocritical into something I genuinely believe in.

What is your vision of sustainability in the automotive sector? 

You’re right, we’re not sustainable. It’s true that cars can be made more sustainable, but if the goal is to keep selling more and more of something that isn’t fully utilized, it simply isn’t sustainable. I won’t deny that we’re currently a hundred percent sustainable, but we strive to transform this industry into something meaningful.

Instead of selling a product that goes unused, we aim to create a real impact. For us, sharing is a crucial component of sustainability, perhaps even more important than the product itself

What was your argument for convincing your investors?

The argument I made was that everyone in the industry is doing the same thing. New brands are emerging from various markets, especially China. They all claim to have the best cars, and in a way, they’re all right because the quality of cars has significantly improved across the board. I emphasized that if you want to succeed in the future, you need to stand out. I used this argument because the overall strategy and philosophy of a business can sometimes feel more like a religious belief rather than being based on facts. So, my main point was that to be successful, you should do something different that sets you apart from others and prevents direct comparison.

Interestingly, when we examine research from our customers and ask them why they joined us, it’s rarely about the car itself. It’s almost always about the brand and the concept of community. This serves as confirmation that there are people out there who still want to drive a car but don’t want to own it.
Some individuals don’t even want to lease a car because they don’t know what their situation will be in five months, let alone 36 months. That’s why I appreciate the Netflix model. You pay for the service, and if, let’s say, after three months you decide to move to Rotterdam and no longer need a car, you can simply return it. Having that peace of mind is significant, in my opinion.

The pillow room, Amsterdam.

Barcelona Club.

Lynk & Co is not just a car brand and an innovative mobility concept, it is above all a community committed to the brand. To achieve this, you don’t have traditional car franchises, but clubs. Can you explain to us the principle of clubs and how you came up with the idea for this concept? 

I ended up in the car industry purely by chance. I’m not a car enthusiast. I do love cars, but I’m not a technician. My real passions lie in music, interior design, and fashion. I wanted to create clubs that combine these passions with cars. With 36 years of experience in the car industry, I have credibility to do something different. 

Another key reason for me is an example that holds significant meaning. A few years ago, I took a U*er and the driver asked me why I didn’t take B*lt. At the time, I had no idea what this App was, but he told me that it was about 10% cheaper for customer. Same service, same app, so I made the switch from the first app to the second, without feeling guilty or disloyal. It made me realize that the car itself is just a small part of the overall experience. 
These services haven’t any soul, and customer don’t have any emotional links to it. With our clubs and the membership, we aim to create a unique and meaningful experience that sets us apart, even if competitors offer cheaper options. That’s why I chose to do something remarkable in this field.

The term “club” describes the physical concept stores of the brand, but it means also membership. How do people become members and what are the benefits?

Everything is included in the car subscription except for electricity and petrol. Insurance, maintenance, and service are all covered. If there are any fines or fees, you are responsible for those. Sharing the car is simple through the app. If you have a contract and make your car shareable, others can rent it by setting the price themselves, like Airb*b. They receive a code to unlock and drive the car and pay via credit card.

As for the club, membership grants access to various events. Due to starting during the pandemic, events have been challenging, but we aim to have at least one event per week. This includes activities such as yoga lessons, running clubs, DJs, sustainable food from chefs, and cocktail mixers. The clubs serve as physical touchpoints for the brand and create a sense of community. It’s the soul of the brand that people connect with.
The clubs have been well-received, and I’m personally involved in their development. They are like the physical evidence of the brand, and they create a unique and exciting community feeling. The rest, the technology, is important but doesn’t evoke the same emotional connection. The clubs give a sense of belonging and excitement.

Lynk & Co’s clubs are real jewels and artistic centers, not only in their interior design but also in all the things you can buy there. How did you come up with all these creative ideas?

When it comes to brainstorming ideas for the club, it’s a collaborative process where everyone contributes. We discuss different concepts and ideas, such as rooms inspired by Disney or other themes. It’s about creating an immersive experience that resonates with our members. 

It all started with a year-long collaboration with a creative agency in London. The idea of building an experience became the starting point of our discussions. I briefed the agency, and we had multiple meetings where we pushed them to come up with something truly exceptional. After a year, they presented THE idea, and we knew it was exactly what we wanted. That became the foundation for the Amsterdam Club, our first location.
From there, we continued to collaborate with design firms for the interior. We briefed them on our vision and allowed them to visit our clubs for inspiration. They came up with ideas, and we guided the process. It has been a fun and exciting journey.

Amsterdam Club.

Lynk & Co is probably the only company where ‘toilet meetings’ are organized. All the clubs in the world have one thing in common: their toilets are hilarious and highly intriguing. Why? 

I can’t help but laugh about the toilets. We had a list of ideas, and Amsterdam has some of the best ones (the toilets are full of doors behind which you can find anything, but no real toilet, this is very confusing and funny) The most radical idea, which I’m proud to say was mine, is the toilets at Gothenburg, Sweden. They are bright, shiny orange. Everything, including the toilets, soap, and more, is orange. But the interesting part is that there are TV screens hanging on the wall, and when you lock the door, you see someone sitting on the toilet on the screen. It’s pre-recorded footage with my employees who spent half a day creating jokes and even throwing things into the toilet. People enter, hear someone inside, see the screen, and think, ‘Oh no, they can see me!’ Their reactions are hilarious.

What place do design and fashion occupy in your life and career? 

I’m from Antwerp, known for its fashion. Naturally, I’m a big fan of the Belgian designers like Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester. I also love interior design. I’m a maniac when it comes to buying things for my own house. I change things all the time, and I love it. So, for me, the clubs are like a playground. 

I always tell my team that part of our brand DNA is ‘wow”.  The difference between something being great and being ‘wow’ is that if you go to a shop and you’re really happy and amazed with it, you’ll tell your friends ‘You know what? You must go to that shop. It’s amazing.’ That’s our objective, to be so disruptive that you want others to have the same experience and celebrate it. And the fact that you can be amazed by something very strong, also applies to the music.

This year, following your commitment to enrich the life of cities, to make them more friendly places for their inhabitants, you partner with The Off Week Festival, is one of the most important events for electronic music lovers in Europe, taking place in Barcelona. Why is this alliance important for you and for Lynk & co? 

We are proud of the alliance forged with OFFWeek and through which Lynk & Co has become an official sponsor of this festival, a reference in electronic music. Lynk & Co and OFFWEEK share a common vision: the aim to innovate, to take a step beyond the established to offer unique experiences to the public. 

Munich Club.

Why did you choose Amsterdam as the first city to host a club?

That’s a good story. In 2016, we conducted research on which cities were more open to car sharing and embracing new ideas. Car affinity and Amsterdam emerged as the top cities in Europe that had a strong aversion to cars and were highly receptive to sharing concepts.

Interestingly, Berlin and Amsterdam were the top two cities in the ranking. 
However, Amsterdam’s anti-car sentiment intrigued us. We thought it would be fascinating to bring a car brand to a city that strongly opposes cars. So, we took the challenge, knowing that our customers wouldn’t primarily come from Amsterdam. Nonetheless, we established our presence there, and it’s been successful.
Currently, the Netherlands is our number one market, but our customers don’t primarily come from Amsterdam. It’s quite remarkable!

And the next step is Paris, right? 

The club is going to be in Paris, but unfortunately, I can’t reveal its exact location. It took us two years to find the perfect club. We explored different areas like Le Marais, which I personally adore, although it’s not located there. We eventually found a top-notch location for the club. It’s going to be one of the largest clubs we have, and the design is going to be incredibly progressive and funny