THE OTHER day I drove a car that was 112-years-old. It was vaguely terrifying because it threatened to break your wrists every time you yanked its starter handle, the pedals made no sense and even at 15mph you never really had a sense of whether you’d arrive at your destination safely.
So it’s no bad thing that more than a century cars have evolved to the point where they’re roughly the same. Pass your test in a Ka and a Koenigsnegg shouldn’t prove too alien, because it’ll still have pedals that work in the same way and you know that the red triangle will always operate the hazards if things go wrong. It’ll have a key, and chances are you’ll buy it from a shiny building full of lots of other cars and a man with a neat suit over a cup of coffee.
But a new car company being launched by a Chinese conglomerate reckons it’s about to rewrite the rulebook. Not just any old outfit, either; you might not have heard of Geely Auto Group but it owns an up ‘n’ coming Swedish carmaker called Volvo. Apparently they do estates and safety tests rather well.
But Geely’s new kid on the block isn’t some Scandinavian load-lugger with a penchant for airbags (although it does share some bits with Volvo’s new XC40). It’s called the Lynk and Co 01, and it’ll be followed in time by the 02, the 03 and so on. What this new company lacks in imaginative names it replaces with ideas straight out of Dragons’ Den. You’ll only be able to buy it digitally for starters, and where most cars have a key this has an app that allows anyone you entrust with it to start it with their smartphone.
That sound you can hear right now is people on the internet oohing excitedly at the idea of cars no longer needing keys and being shared like messages on Facebook – but we’ve been here before. Geely’s already trying the technology out on Volvo’s more upmarket models, but they come with decades of hard-earned reputation of being safe, solidly built and – in the case of the 850 T5 – fun to drive. They’re good for being cars, not gimmicks.
It’s only fair to reserve final judgement until we discover Lynk and Co’s first model is brilliant to drive and utterly dependable, but the last manufacturer to try and break the UK with only one fantastic-sounding idea up its sleeve was Daewoo two decades ago. It took about five minutes for everyone to realise that revolution in car buying was yesterday’s Vauxhall Astra reheated in the microwave, and it all ended in tears. Same goes for the Saturns, the Edsels and DeLoreans of this world.
I really hope that I’m wrong and the Lynk and Co 01 is a decent product, but there’s a reason why all cars nowadays are roughly the same.