Polestar Looks to be Volvo’s High-Performance Competitor to Tesla


Volvo is strategically tightlipped about Polestar, a new offshoot of electric cars designed primarily for speed. But the Swedish-born, Chinese-owned company announced Wednesday it sees the Polestar brand — and other Volvo-made electric vehicles — as the key to meeting its goals of never producing another gas-only car after 2019 and tussle with environmentally-friendly manufacturers like Tesla.

Volvo announced it would release five new electric vehicles between 2019 and 2021. Though the details of the five models — and their potential price points — are unknown, the company said there would be under the Volvo brand and two would be under the Polestar brand.

“This is about the customer,” Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.”

Volvo has worked with Polestar Performance, then an independent company, since 1996. The two collaborated on sports vehicles, which are Polestar’s specialty. (The company says it was “born on the racetrack.”) But in 2015, Volvo acquired Polestar outright and, more recently, moved to make the performance vehicle manufacturer a leader in electric technology.

When Volvo first acquired Polestar, it was folded into its new parent company and assumed the Volvo insignia. But on June 21, Volvo announced Polestar would now be its own entity within the Volvo Car Group and drive under its own logo. This was perhaps the first public indication that Volvo intended to use Polestar to compete in the competitive high performance electric vehicle market.

“Polestar will be a credible competitor in the emerging global market for high performance electrified cars,” Volvo said in a statement at the time. In other words, Volvo thinks Polestar is a nice enough ride, with a clean enough engine, and theoretically a competitive enough price point to compete with Tesla’s $35,000 Model 3 and other sleek electric vehicles.

The Polestar's two faces: Race car and family car. 


Whether the shift pans out for Volvo remains to be seen, but many analysts think it will. Right now, Volvo’s stated goal is to sell one million hybrid and electric vehicles by 2025, putting them up against a hefty sales target, especially when overall vehicle sales are declining and even the supercool Tesla only sold 84,000 of its original, pricier models last year.

But the biggest obstacle traditional car manufacturers like Volvo face is time, as shifting a company away from the fossil fuel-based technology its relied on for almost a century takes years of research and development into the alternatives. And that’s actually where Volvo could have a real advantage. The company’s ambition, combined with its 2015 Polestar acquisition and more recent restructuring, may allow Volvo to clean its competitor’s clocks.

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