6 things you need to know about Polestar

The Polestar 2 is an electric sedan with a pair of motors that give it 408 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and 275 miles of range for around $45,000. It may look like a Volvo (for good reason: Polestar is Volvo’s electric car division), but it’s the company’s first shot across the bow of the Tesla Model 3. Not coincidentally, the brand picked San Francisco’s up-and-coming Dogpatch neighborhood, just a stone’s through from Tesla’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters, to introduce the Polestar 2 to the U.S. on Wednesday.

Motor Authority sat down with Polestar’s chief designer, the brand’s U.S.-market head, and representatives from tech partner Google to find out just what could make the 2—and Polestar—Tesla’s fiercest competitor yet.

Polestar 2

Polestar 2

The Polestar 2 is built on the Volvo XC40’s platform alongside the Lynk & Co CX11

The Polestar 2 shares its Volvo CMA platform underpinnings with the Volvo XC40 and a crossover SUV sold by parent company Geely’s new Chinese-market subscription-oriented brand Lynk & Co. That means it doesn’t ride on a dedicated electric car platform like the Tesla Model 3 that the Polestar 2 is sized and priced against.

It’s spacious inside, but more conventional looking than vehicles such as the Model 3 and the Jaguar I-Pace that were designed from the ground up without a gas engine.

Volvo 40.2 concept

Volvo 40.2 concept

It was going to be a Volvo

It’s no coincidence that the Polestar 2 is sized and styled like a successor to the old Volvo S40. The S40 debuted as a concept in 2016 with the promise of turbo-3 and turbo-4 power underhood, but Volvo decided instead to focus on the XC40 crossover SUV. 

Volvo exterior design chief Maximilian Missoni tweaked the car’s taillights, grille, and wheels, and now it’s the Polestar 2. Missoni doesn’t hide the fact that Polestar was able to give the stillborn Volvo concept a home, and he told Motor Authority that the Polestar 2 will “influence our design going forward” more than the retro-flavored Polestar 1. 

Polestar 2

Polestar 2

But Polestar is its own brand

Polestar is, legally speaking, its own brand in the U.S., even though it shares office space with Volvo. That means that Polestar and Volvo won’t have to draw from the same pool when it comes to federal, state, and local tax incentives applied to electric cars. Polestar and Volvo will each have the full 200,000 $7,500 federal IRS credits.

Additionally, the cars’ VINs will be Polestar-specific.

Google's Android-based infotainment in the Polestar 2

Google’s Android-based infotainment in the Polestar 2

Polestar debuts Google’s native Android operating system

Saying “OK, Google” inside the Polestar 2 pulls up Google Assistant, which can navigate to a destination using Google Maps or play Spotify music via an app acquired through the Google Play Store. Other cars have used certain Google Services, but Polestar is the first automaker to hand over the reins to the Silicon Valley giant.

We dove into the open-source nature of Android’s automotive infotainment software on Thursday

Apple fans will likely still get access to CarPlay compatibility, although unlocking that feature is up to Polestar.

2020 Volvo XC90

2020 Volvo XC90

Polestar’s next act will be a crossover SUV

The Polestar 3 will be a larger crossover SUV along the lines of a Volvo XC90. Missoni said it won’t look much like the Polestar 1 or the Polestar 2. That’s a dramatically different approach than what Tesla has taken with its lineup of three and soon to be four electric cars that are virtually indistinguishable from some angles.

The Polestar 3 SUV is due to hit the road by late 2021, though the automaker hasn’t said when it will debut. Look for it, and subsequent Polestar models, to ride on a dedicated electric car platform rather than the internal combustion underpinnings of the Polestar 2.

Polestar 2

Polestar 2

Polestars will be sold through Volvo dealers, not that buyers will know it

Polestar will have its own network of dealers when the first cars hit the market in 2020, though the automaker’s sales department has only invited existing Volvo dealers to apply for Polestar franchises. Initially, the company plans to set up a handful of showrooms in major markets on the West Coast before expanding eastward. The showrooms won’t be branded with dealer group names, so their nomenclature will be along the lines of Polestar of San Francisco or Polestar of Seattle. 

Polestar USA head Gregor Hembrough told Motor Authority that the company’s showrooms will operate in high-traffic areas and will be staffed by product experts who aren’t paid on commission. However, actual sales paperwork will be handled by dealers and so will any servicing. 

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