When Volvo bought the racing-focused Polestar brand in 2015 it appeared to be readying itself to challenge BMW M and Mercedes-AMG in the lucrative niche for fine-tuned models with plenty of horsepower. It turns out that the Swedish automaker had always envisioned Polestar as its challenger to Tesla and BMW's i subbrand instead. Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said Polestar will focus on offering "progressive performance." He explained what that means and shared details on Volvo's decision to make Polestar a stand-alone brand for top-performing electrified models during an interview with Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc.
When did you decide that Polestar would become your high-performance electric brand?
Before we acquired it [in 2015]. We bought it with this in mind. We have been working in secret preparing for this. That's why we can already show the first cars [this autumn]. We will redefine the brand to move it from making gasoline cars for racing into a high-performance electric brand focused on progressive performance rather than just horsepower.
What is progressive performance?
That means also offering the latest connectivity products, the latest infotainment products, and, of course, a very elegant design. That's where we want to take Polestar. It will be our leading star into the future and into electrification.
Would you consider Polestar for your first fully autonomous car?
Autonomous drive is all about safety so I would say Volvo is the brand that will carry the safety niche. Autonomous drive is very clearly connected to Volvo. It could also be used in Polestar. We have to look into that, but Volvo definitely. If you think about electrification and performance, this will be more related to Polestar.
Polestar competes in the World Touring Car Championship but after the repositioning it seems that Formula E would be a better choice. When will you make the switch?
We cannot comment on this part of the brand's repositioning, but we are definitely not going to race long term using gasoline. We have contracts, but I think that if we do something, it must support the brand position of Polestar, which will change.
How will Polestar benefit from its ties to Volvo?
We will utilize synergies within the Volvo Car Group, which means Polestar will not be a startup. That makes the brand more credible because it will benefit from Volvo's solid industrial expertise. Until recently, the people working on Polestar were doing everything internally. Now we need to have someone who can personalize the brand.
Do you mean give the brand a face?
Yes, we need that, and that is [Polestar CEO] Thomas Ingenlath's role.