The Polestar brand is one of many to enter the global automotive market over the past five years.
The announcement that it would become its own brand – therefore separate from Volvo where it existed as a division for high-performance cars – came in October 2017, when Volvo Cars and Geely announced the new brand would be dedicated to EVs, exactly 20 years after its foundation by Flash / Polestar Racing.
A Unique Philosophy
The original idea of the spin-off Polestar was to create a dedicated car brand to compete in the emerging electrified car market. The first model was the Polestar 1, a large plug-in hybrid luxury coupe, which opened the doors and markets to the Polestar 2 all-electric midsize saloon, a direct rival to the Tesla Model 3.
Between 2020, when the first cars were made available, and May 2023, Polestar sold around 110,000 vehicles worldwide – a pretty good figure for a new 'signature' in the premium segment. By comparison, for example, DS Automobiles, Citroen's premium standalone brand since 2014, sold 179,000 units in the same period.
A Better Volvo?
The confusion between the positioning of Polestar and Volvo started when the latter launched its first fully electric autonomous model, the Volvo C40.
The small SUV coupe reminded the public that Volvo also plans to produce premium electric vehicles, something that has led to questions about how much the two brands could differentiate themselves in the future with such a similar goal.
Subsequently, Polestar then presented the Polestar 3, almost simultaneously with the reveal by Volvo of the new EX90, the spiritual heir of the XC90. Both of these cars are large premium electric SUVs, but the difference lies in their construction philosophy.
Indeed, Polestar bases its existence on three fundamental pillars: design, innovation, and sustainability. Polestar wants to produce a climate-neutral car by 2030: an idea not very different from Volvo's values and objectives. So what will be, concretely, their difference?
In my opinion, Polestar is an extension of Volvo cars with a slightly more exclusive approach. Just as Cupra is for Seat, but with even fewer differences. Polestar represents the state of the art of electric vehicles for the Geely group, which means it is only one step above Volvo. At least, that's how I see it based on the positioning of the Polestar 2 and the upcoming Polestar 3 and 4.
When the current trend is for new brands with the flexibility of a startup, Polestar plays exactly that role within the premium car market. Tesla is the benchmark, but it's harder to compete with a heritage brand like Volvo, widely known for its combustion engine cars. By creating a new brand, Geely has ensured that it participates in the race in a better and neutral way.
Volvo Will Also Become Fully Electric
The challenge for the two brands will be making sense of everything, once there are only zero-emission cars on the price list for both. The shift from combustion to electric power has encouraged automakers to create brands or sub-brands that can be better positioned within the new era. This is why, for example, BMW created the "i" sub-brand and Mercedes invented the "EQ" family.
But sooner or later the transition will be complete, and when there is an almost exclusively electric offering, manufacturers will have to try to avoid any potential redundancy between these brands. The goal of Geely and Volvo Cars is to position Polestar as a real alternative, without hurting Volvo's sales.
Only time and how the public reacts to upcoming Polestar models will tell. For now, both brands can easily coexist.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.