Aiming for pole position in growing electrified market
Mark Smyth spoke with Jonathan Goodman of Polestar on the company’s plans and challenges
The chief operating officer of Polestar, Volvo’s electrified brand, has told Motor News that the new models will have the "unique attributes of Polestar with the underpinnings of Volvo".
We spoke with Jonathan Goodman while he was at the recent Geneva motor show and he says that Polestar is "like a 90-year-old start-up", referring to the new brand being part of the 90-year-old Volvo car company. He says that it was always the vision to make Polestar a standalone brand, after it was initially a performance division along the lines of BMW’s M or Mercedes’ AMG.
Goodman says it would have been difficult for Volvo to launch a performance car brand, but through its strategy of electrification Polestar can be something very different. However, there are challenges such as the low level of awareness of the new brand compared to rivals. "We have to be pragmatic," he told us, adding there is real excitement in the firm at the fact that they were an actual brand being represented at Geneva.
The company will have its first production facility up and running in the middle of 2018 and its first car, the Polestar 1, will hit the market in the middle of 2019 with initial production being 500 units per year.
Goodman says Polestar will use a similar deposit-based ordering system to Tesla, with deposit books opening shortly at €2,500, but before you get excited, there are currently no plans to bring the brand to SA.
That is mainly because SA is not seen as being ready for electric vehicles when it comes to infrastructure, although the possibility that Polestar models will be offered on a subscription basis, similar to cellphone contracts, could also be a hindrance in a country where ownership is still a priority.
The timelines to market are tight, says Goodman, but there is an element of sharing with Volvo, particularly when it comes to technology. The platform will be the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that Volvo uses for many of its models and in the case of the Polestar 1, the petrol engine will be Volvo’s. Goodman says 50% of the model will be Polestar specific.
While it was expected that Polestar would be an electric-only brand, the Polestar 1, revealed in Shanghai in 2017, is a hybrid model. Goodman says that from a customer perspective this represents the best of both worlds, which he says is something that is particularly reassuring in the Gran Turismo (GT) coupe segment.
Goodman also promises that the Polestar models will be "real drivers’ cars".
The main challenge now is to deal with the speed at which technology and the industry is changing. The company is looking at virtual dealerships, but Goodman says that in 2020 there will be dedicated Polestar retail operations, mainly in urban centres. He says they want to do things differently for their customers, even to the degree that Polestar sales people will not work on commission to ensure the highest level of customer service.
The Polestar 1 is only the beginning and all-electric models will follow. The Polestar 2 is already in development but Goodman would not divulge any details on the next vehicle in the line-up. Perhaps by the time that is released, SA might be a bit more ready to receive it.