Volvo Cars has revealed the first model and further details about its new Polestar brand at an event in Shanghai (China).
IHS Markit perspective
- Significance: Volvo Cars has revealed the first model and further details about its new Polestar brand at an event in Shanghai (China).
- Implications: Initial investment of RMB5 billion (USD755.8 million) will include a new plant in Chengdu that will build the Polestar 1 coupé and other forthcoming battery electric vehicles (BEV) for the brand.
- Outlook: With the Polestar 1 being such a limited model, it is difficult to gauge at this early stage how successful this endeavor is likely to be, and we will have a far better indication when future models are revealed during the next year or so.
Following an announcement in June 2017 in which it announced plans to turn Polestar into a standalone brand, Volvo Cars has revealed further details of its objectives as well as its first model at an event in Shanghai (China) that took place yesterday (18 October).
In a statement, the company said that it and its parent company Geely Holdings will invest RMB5 billion (USD755.8 million) in the initial phase of developing Polestar as it establishes the fully consolidated subsidiary of Volvo as a "standalone electrified performance car company. A Polestar manufacturing facility will be established in Chengdu (China) that is due for completion in mid-2018. It also said that Polestar intends to "radically shorten the time" to commercially launch vehicles, and will leverage synergies with Volvo Cars, including shared procurement costs, joint development and economies of scale when introducing next-generation technologies.
The first model launched by the brand is currently known as the Polestar 1, which has been designed very much as a halo model. To be built at its new site in Chengdu from mid-2019, it is a two-door, four-seat grand touring coupé that is closely related to the Volvo Concept Coupé that was revealed in 2013 to whet the appetite for its next-generation models. The company said that is based on Volvo's Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) but features around 50% new and bespoke components developed by Polestar's engineers. It features a carbon fibre frame that according to reports helps to reduce bodyweight by 230kg and improve torsional stiffness by 45%, as well as lowering the car's centre of gravity. It is also said to have a wheelbase which measures around 320mm shorter than the S90 sedan, while its rear overhang is around 200 mm shorter.
In line with Volvo's plan to make Polestar a high-performance electrified brand, the Polestar 1 features a plug-in hybrid powertrain that combines Volvo's four-cylinder gasoline (petrol) engine with two electric motors at the rear, which give a combined output of 600hp and 1,000Nm. Battery capacity is said to offer an electric-only range of 150km. As well as offering a zero-emission range and a boost to the vehicle's combined output, the two electric motors on the rear axle enables torque vectoring to maintain grip and cornering stability. Its dynamic capabilities are also supported by being the first car to include Öhlins' Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension (CESi) advanced chassis technology. As part of the system, each damper is fitted with an electronic valve that constantly monitors and adapts to driver input and the road surface, as well as offering the option of adjustment by the driver while driving.
The Polestar 1 will move away from the traditional ownership model. Indeed, while the company intends to open a network of Polestar Spaces around the world where customers can engage with products at facilities away from traditional Volvo dealers, orders will be made online. They will also be owned by customers under a subscription basis, similar to the "Care by Volvo" service announced with the introduction of the Volvo XC40 last month. The all-inclusive subscription will also add features such as pick-up and delivery servicing and the ability to rent alternative vehicles within the Volvo and Polestar range as part of a single monthly payment. Customers will also have the option of sharing the vehicle with others through the "Phone-As-Key" technology, as well as enabling other features such as the concierge services. However, while no pricing has yet been confirmed, expressions of interest can begin to dealers this week.
Polestar has also indicated what can be expected from its subsequent models. The second model – known as Polestar 2 – is set to be the first battery electric vehicle (BEV) from the Volvo Cars Group and will go into production during the second half of 2019; it is being designed as a mid-size vehicle. The automaker is also specifically targeting Tesla's Model 3, and it adds that it will have "consequently higher volumes than Polestar 1." This will then be followed by Polestar 3, "a larger SUV [sport utility vehicle]-style BEV... which will create a modern expression of electric performance and driving dynamics."
Outlook and implications
This significantly fleshes out Volvo's plans for the Polestar brand, which take it from being a performance sub-brand modifying existing Volvo models to a standalone brand within the group producing its own models with a focus on high levels of powertrain electrification at its own site in China. Having ridden on the crest of a wave of warmly received recent model launches that have not only boosted volumes but also its financial performance, this move is still a gamble for Volvo and its parent, which are effectively building a brand from scratch. The Polestar 1 creates a statement of intent for what can be expected from Polestar as a brand in terms of its attractive looks (although unfortunately not that distinct from Volvo for a standalone brand), strong performance and high levels of technology content. It will also be exceptionally exclusive; Autocar has been told that a maximum of 500 units a year will be built, while executives have indicated to website Jalopnik that it will only be sold in six markets globally – China, the United States, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands – with distribution looking set to be 100 to the US, 100 to Europe and the remainder in China. The limited availability and the high levels of performance and technology also suggest that even under the subscription ownership model, it will be vastly more expensive than any other car in Volvo's previous history.
With the Polestar 1 being such a limited model, it is difficult to gauge at this early stage how successful this endeavour is likely to be, and we will have a far better indication when Polestar 2 and Polestar 3 are introduced at a later date in to what are more volume-based categories. These will feed in to the wider Volvo Car Group's plan to electrify all its new models from 2019. These two new vehicles will be part of a range of five either Volvo or Polestar BEVs that will be introduced between 2019 and 2021. The Chinese government's plan to bring in quotas for new energy vehicles (NEVs) may well have gone some way to helping Volvo and its parent company's decision to locate production of this new brand in China instead of its traditional home of Sweden.
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