By Gilles Guillaume
PARIS (Reuters) - Lynk & Co, a carmaker jointly owned by China's Geely and Volvo Car, plans to open its first showroom in France by early 2024 and to expand in Europe, including Britain, its CEO and founder told Reuters.
The automaker, which both sells and rents cars on monthly subscriptions, already has what it calls clubs, which look like bars or lifestyle shops, in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Italy.
Lynk, which only offers a Chinese-made hybrid SUV called 01 in black and blue, will launch a fully-electric model, the 02, by the end of 2024, Alain Visser said in an interview.
"We have plans to enter other European markets in the short term: Norway, Austria, Switzerland and the UK," said Visser, who worked for General Motors, Ford, and Volvo before Lynk.
Visser said Lynk had the "ambition" to also branch out into the U.S. market at some stage.
Though small, Lynk's expansion plans are the latest example of Geely seeking to grow its foothold in Europe as the appeal of Chinese cars, particularly electric vehicles, increases.
The Chinese giant, which controls Volvo and last week increased its stake in Britain's Aston Martin to 17%, in January detailed plans to grow its Zeekr and London Electric Vehicle marques in Europe.
It is also a partner in a new powertrain firm being set up with French carmaker Renault.
In 2022 Chinese-made electric vehicles already had a 9% market share in Europe, nearly double the previous year, according to consultancy Inovev, and the pace is picking up.
Lynk says it had 200,000 monthly memberships in Europe as of April, of which around 25,000 are in France, up from 180,000 and 21,000 respectively a month earlier.
In France, where Lynk plans to open its first selling space in Paris in late 2023 or early 2024, it offers a monthly subscription rate of 550 euros, with a full purchase price of 44,500 euros ($48,986) in the premium segment, higher than Shanghai Automobile Industry Corporation-owned MG Motor.
The French government, lobbying to attract foreign gigafactories and carmaking plants, is planning to make a 5,000 euro ($5,504) subsidy available to electric car buyers conditional on meeting low-carbon standards when manufactured - which it says would in effect exclude cars not made in Europe.
Visser said Lynk would have to consider manufacturing cars in Europe, also given rising tensions between China and the United States.
"It's becoming more and more necessary to have local manufacturing sites ... rather than import cars from China."
($1 = 0.9084 euros)
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Alexander Smith)