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Polestar launch locked in for Australia

1 that got away: Volvo’s new local boss Nick Connor, who was Polestar’s inaugural CEO, made the decision “with a heavy heart” not to build the Polestar 1 in right-hand drive – but PS2 and PS3 are coming to Australia.

New Volvo Oz chief with strong Polestar links confirms electric sports brand launch

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4 May 2018

VOLVO Car Australia’s new managing director Nick Connor has confirmed that the reborn Polestar brand will be launched Down Under in line with the electric high-performance marque’s global rollout, kicking off with the yet-to-be-revealed Polestar 2 compact sedan in 2020.

Mr Connor has also told GoAuto that the Lynk & Co brand will come to Australia “in due course”, slotting in underneath Volvo as an entry brand as Polestar sits on top with the flagship offerings from the Geely-owned group – not dissimilar to how Volkswagen operates with Skoda, VW and Audi.

The Polestar 2 will be followed by the Polestar 3 mid-size SUV due in 2022, with Australian deliveries of both the PS2 and PS3 (as they are known) scheduled to commence around the same time as other markets including Europe, North America and China.

Mr Connor was the inaugural chief executive of Polestar and oversaw its establishment as a wholly owned subsidiary of Volvo Cars that designs, develops and produces separately branded, high-performance electrified cars.

This has started with the Polestar 1 (PS1) plug-in hybrid coupe that enters production around the end of this year – a model that Mr Connor admits he was responsible for deciding not to produce in right-hand drive, meaning Australia must wait to launch with PS2.

In an interview with GoAuto this week, Mr Connor said “Polestar is and will be a global product offering” and that “plenty of future Polestar cars” will be made available in Australia.

“The PS1 is left-hand drive only, which is a decision that I had to take, unfortunately, at the time – so, sorry, I’m the guy to blame on that one! – I took it with a very heavy heart as I’m from the UK and I would have loved to have a right-hand-drive car available,” he said.

“But 500 units a year, which was the initial plan, it just didn’t stack up as a right-hand-drive car given the relatively limited supply available.

“So PS1 won’t come here but there will be plenty of future Polestar cars that will get to come here.”

Mr Connor said the PS2 was expected to arrive in 2020, while PS3’s exact launch timing was still to be confirmed.

Asked about the potential of the Polestar brand in Australia, Mr Connor said the products and their sales volume would ultimately be determined by consumers and broader issues such as government subsidies or incentives and recharging infrastructure.

“The products are compelling, they’re very attractive, they’re pure, premium performance cars, they’re a little bit different,” he said.

“It (sales volume) comes down ultimately, I think, to the infrastructure, to incentives. I mean, electric cars are, and will be for the foreseeable future, more expensive than their internal-combustion equivalents.

“But, that said, they offer fantastic performance, they’re clean, I think there’s an opportunity here. I would guess, in early days, it would probably be in the hundreds of units rather than in the thousands – but who knows?“Certainly, it’s an offer that we need to have here and we’ll see what happens.

I would look to the (federal) government, I would look to the states, to say, ‘You know, you have a part to play in all this.’“If manufacturers are going to the huge expense of producing all-electric cars, which have benefits in lots of ways for the environment, then there should be some incentives to get people into them, to bear the extra cost that’s involved in acquiring them in the first place.”

Mr Connor said it was “theoretically possible” for the company to retool PS1 for right-hand drive but that the business case simply did not stack up, meaning right-hook variants are all but officially ruled out in the current generation.

He also said it was too early to discuss whether PS1 would enter a second generation.

“The second generation isn’t on the table at the moment,” he said. “We’re focusing on the first three cars and who knows what will come after that? “I think the world is going to look very different in five or six years’ time in terms of volumes. That’s a decision for another day.”

Asked whether Polestar’s next move with the still-secret ‘PS4’ and other siblings would continue to stick with high-volume segments, Mr Connor said: “I’m not looking beyond the first three cars. Electrified cars are going to grow, there’s no doubt about that, over the coming decade.

“We currently hit all the big market segments with our products and I don’t think that will stop. I don’t see ourselves going off and doing something completely unique it’s quite hard for a small player to make an impact in that way.”

At a retail level, Volvo is currently considering whether the Polestar cars – and those from Lynk & Co – will be offered through Volvo dealers, dedicated standalone stores or an online sales channel – or all three.

Mr Connor said bricks-and-mortar retail outlets would be important, as would internet sales, and that a subscription service, whereby customers pay a monthly fee over a two- or three-year period – similar to a mobile phone plan – would also be a core component.

On Lynk & Co, Mr Connor said Geely has “global plans” for the brand: “They plan to be in all of the major markets around the world. They haven’t specifically announced a launch date in Australia, but I think it’s safe to assume that in due course they will come here.

“I’m sure they will come here, I just don’t know exactly what they’re planning at the moment.”

The Lynk & Co range will include the 01 mid-size SUV, 02 small SUV and 03 sedan, with production bases confirmed for China and Europe.

Electrified variants will be built at Volvo’s Ghent factory in Belgium from late next year, while internal-combustion engine variants will be produced in China.

The models from Volvo, Polestar and Lynk & Co all have commonalities in platform and other components.

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