Polestar 2 wants to take a chunk of market share from Tesla Model 3

Rob Nikolewski
The San Diego Union-Tribune

There’s a new electric vehicle brand on the block, and it’s chosen a handful of target cities to show off its high-performance sedan with lofty ambitions — to take a chunk of market share from the hot-selling Tesla Model 3.

It’s the Polestar 2, a fastback that can travel up to 275 miles on a single charge, go from zero to 60 mph in under 5 seconds with all-wheel drive and boasts being the first vehicle of any kind to feature a built-in Android infotainment system. The launch edition that rolls out in the first half of next year costs $63,000.

Prospective buyers can get in line to purchase the car by putting down $1,000 reservations.

The Polestar 2 will initially cost $63,000, but brand owners Geely and Volvo plan to eventually produce models for about $45,000 in a bid to challenge Tesla’s Model 3.

“I think the equipment, the fit, the finish of the car are exceptional,” said Jonathan Goodman, Polestar’s chief operating officer. “And I think it makes a wonderful alternative to the highly successful Tesla Model 3.”

Polestar is a stand-alone brand jointly owned by Geely, the Chinese auto giant, and Volvo.

Production is slated to begin in the first quarter and when the car hits the streets in the second quarter, Polestar plans on opening retail operations in four West Coast cities in the U.S. — San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle — and one in Vancouver, B.C.

It’s easy to see why Polestar wants to make a run at the Tesla Model 3.

Promoted as a Tesla for the masses, the list price for a stripped down Model 3 starts at $42,900, with rear-wheel drive and 260 miles of range. More expensive versions with features like all-wheel drive and added range cost as much as $70,000 — and those cars have been delivered first.

“Tesla has a huge market share and they really do set the bar for what an EV is,” said Jeremy Acevedo, pricing and industry analyst for Edmunds.com.

But by producing a car with sleek styling, roomier trunk space than the Model 3 and the backing of Volvo’s service network, the makers of the Polestar 2 see an opportunity.

“Dimensionally, it’s pretty similar to a Tesla Model 3 and I think it creates an alternative and joins the competition in and around it where there hasn’t been much,” Goodman said. “We happen to believe it’s a great alternative, but I think that’s for the customer to come in and have a look and decide.”

Tesla officials declined to comment about Polestar taking aim at the Model 3.

But Tesla’s domination in the EV space has endured.

The company’s name recognition is unrivaled among its competitors, many Tesla owners speak of CEO Elon Musk with an almost religious fervor and the company boasts a competitive advantage when it comes to battery technology — a key component in the EV sector.

A Polestar executive earlier this month conceded that when it comes to energy efficiency, Tesla is “far ahead of everyone else.”

“Nobody quite yet has been able to out-Tesla Tesla,” Acevedo said. “Jaguar has had a full electric SUV hit the market (the I-Pace) and that’s kind of been met with lackluster demand. The Audi e-tron, as well, really isn’t getting close to the Model 3 as far as sales numbers. These vehicles that have been billed as ‘Tesla killers’ really haven’t competed with the brand as far as market demand and sales thus far.”

But by leveraging Volvo’s institutional knowledge, Polestar executives feel they can make inroads by beating the Model 3 on design and quality.

One of the Polestar 2’s most talked-about features is a Google infotainment system. Google announced plans in 2017 to install Android technology into select Audi and Volvo vehicles. The Polestar 2 is the first to roll out Google’s in-car experience.

With Android embedded, drivers don’t have to pair their smartphones with the vehicle when they get in the car. In essence, the car and the computer are one. The 11-inch center console displays an Android Automotive operating system that includes voice-activated Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play Store.

The infotainment system allows the driver to access a suite of features, such as sending texts via audio, listening to podcasts or finding the nearest charging location.

“It means you can just get in and have all the benefits of Google voice activation,” Goodman said.

Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis for AutoPacific, a Tustin-based automotive marketing research and product-consulting firm, thinks the infotainment system will attract EV customers.

“Our research has shown time and time again that the people who are interested in electric vehicles, almost always have a very high-tech mindset,” Kim said. “Their interest in technology extends far beyond just the powertrain technology in the car … They’re total technology enthusiasts.”

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