There’s a new electric vehicle brand on the block, and it’s made three California cities its targets 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.
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 San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
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’s Model 3 has racked up some impressive numbers, especially in California. In the first six months of this year, the Model 3 was the third best-selling car in the Golden State — unheard of for an electric vehicle, or EV. Only the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry sold more units. The Model 3 accounted for more than 60 percent of all California’s EV registrations in the first two quarters.
“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.
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.”
One of the Polestar 2’s most talked-about features is a Google infotainment system. Google announced plans in 2017 to install Android technology in 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.
The lack of name recognition is “our primary challenge,” Polestar's chief operating officer, Jonathan Goodman, acknowledged last month in an interview. “The big challenge for any brand is that we’ve got to get the notoriety. You have to bring the notoriety with good quality products.”
The company said the Polestar 2’s $63,000 price tag includes 25 percent tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on cars made in China that are sent to the U.S. The car will be eligible for the federal government’s $7,500 tax credit and California’s $2,500 rebate.
The Polestar 2’s debut comes as car makers come out with greater numbers of EV offerings. In years past, boxy EV models like the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius dominated the space, but now just about every major car maker has introduced and added to its fleet of zero-emissions vehicles.
Earlier this month, Porsche unveiled the Taycan, a sports car that can go 236 to 280 miles on a single charge and hit 162 mph, for a base price of $150,900.
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