Can Polestar Compete with Tesla?

Can Polestar Compete with Tesla?

The 2023 MY Polestar 2 Source Polestar

As the Polestar electric vehicle (EV) brand reaches adolescence, it is finding its own way, moving further from its Volvo roots, and that means taking on Tesla, the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer, head-to-head, in earnest.

But, Polestar says that it doesn’t want to be the next Tesla, or even compete with the brand directly, preferring to say that it will instead follow in Tesla’s footsteps. They’re doing that with daring, unique product that pushes sustainability and technology boundaries. But, they will compete for the same customers, at least in the short term as buyers seek to buy a premium EV from a limited set of options.

“Polestar is establishing itself in the premium market and looking at premium brands as the competitive set. While there may be some cross shopping between vehicles, Polestar is not trying to compete with Tesla,” John Canton, Polestar’s North America public relations and communications representative told Newsweek.

The first Polestar electrified car, aptly named Polestar 1, was a plug-in hybrid, grand touring style coupe that borrowed heavily from the Volvo XC90 T8 sport utility vehicle (SUV).

The 1 was Polestar’s Tesla Roadster, a vehicle that made the non-enthusiast public (enthusiasts already knew the brand from its Volvo-adjacent racing days) start to take notice. It followed that up with the quirky Polestar 2 high-riding hatchback. Though it was a new model, it still had some Volvo built in.

The Polestar 3, launching in 2024 is different from the first two efforts. It sports a new aerodynamic profile but still has the hallmarks of an SUV. As opposed to the the Polestar 2, which shared its sheetmetal with the Volvo C40, the 3 is purely Polestar.

“We are proud of our Volvo roots – you can clearly see Volvo DNA in both the Polestar 1 and Polestar 2, which both started life as Volvo concept cars – however from Polestar 3 on you can see the distinct and clear Polestar design identity,” Maximillian Missoni, director of design for Polestar told Newsweek.

The Polestar 4 goes even further, inspired by the 1, with a low, coupe-like roofline and no rear window. The rear passengers do get to enjoy the sprawling glass roof that reaches over their heads.

The 3 uses an innovative front aero wing and the Polestar 4 eliminates the rear window to improve occupant experience. Of course, this was a proactive move on Polestar’s part, and we will continue to demonstrate the difference between the brands using design as our driver,” said Missoni.

Polestar isn’t thinking about the current range of Teslas, though it does seem to undercut them at a few price points. It’s planning for the technologies of five, 10 years from now.

Christian Samson, Polestar’s head of product attributes told Newsweek that the EV realm is different than the internal combustion market in many ways, including that there aren’t incumbent vehicles that have been improved over decades. The targets for new vehicles are set where customer needs are going.

We take this approach as opposed to benchmarking existing vehicles. For the Polestar 3 there were a few features of various segment vehicles we found admirable— particularly amongst the premium German manufacturers —but for the most part we chased our own list of target attributes,” Samson said.

Samson said that Polestar has the bandwidth to compete with Tesla, thanks to its Volvo and Geely partner production facilities throughout the world. Chinese holding company Geely bought Volvo from Ford in 2010.

The Polestar performance brand was separated from Volvo in 2017 as a standalone EV company, with the full weight of the giant Chinese automaker behind it.

Polestar doesn’t have ambitions that high, telling Newsweek the sweet spot would be somewhere north of 200,000 vehicles per year. That still pales in comparison to Tesla who moved more than 1.3 million vehicles globally in 2022.

Still, analysts can’t help but make the connections between Tesla and Polestar, including the retail stores, even while noting the huge advantage that the now Texas-based company has over other EV makers, especially smaller ones.

“Polestar does present itself as a high-tech brand with the latest in technology and standout design, as Tesla does,” Ed Kim, president and chief analyst at AutoPacific told Newsweek. “Like Tesla, Polestar doesn’t have any internal combustion engine heritage to shed, and it has released a string of very appealing EVs that truly speak their own voice.”

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