Polestar 1 will be expensive, probably won't be subscription-only
The first offering from Volvo Cars' new Polestar division will likely be offered for sale after all, and it'll probably cost over $150,000.
Chris PaukertFormer executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015.
Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
's recently spun-off Polestar electrified performance division will heavily emphasize a new subscription model as an alternative to traditional car ownership. However, that doesn't mean you probably won't be able to purchase their vehicles outright. In a media roundtable following the debut of the new Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid super coupe in Shanghai on Tuesday, Jonathan Goodman, chief operating officer of Polestar, told me:
"I think it would be very difficult to me to turn around to a customer who walks in with a 'hundred-and-x thousand dollars' and says, 'I want to buy one.' I think I'm not particularly convinced that I'll be turning them away and saying, 'Absolutely not, sir or madam. You have to have it on subscription.' I think subscription is going to be a key part of it."
Polestar officials are clearly keen on their new all-inclusive subscription model, which includes features like service pickup and drop-off, access to other Polestar and Volvo vehicles on demand, insurance and so on. But it's likely that at least some luxury customers will still want to own their vehicle outright, and Goodman seems receptive to that notion: "I can't see us being a hundred-percent subscription, but that'll be the main offer we go through. If someone wants to buy a car, we need to look at the possibility of doing that, as well," he said.
Polestar 1 is a 600-hp electrified GT from Volvo's performance arm
In fact, taking into account the Polestar 1's expected exclusivity -- the company has said it plans to offer just 500 examples a year globally -- it's likely that the high-power plug-in hybrid coupe will be viewed by some potential customers as a future collectible worth owning instead of subscribing to. Indeed, it's also possible that those who can afford to consider what will likely be a six-figure car may be more comfortable with the idea of outright ownership than the temporary possession inherent in a subscription.
If anything, it seems like the subscription model may be more important to future company offerings — namely the Polestar 2, an as-yet unseen model confirmed for production in 2019. The company has already said that the Polestar 2, Volvo Cars Group's first battery-electric automobile, will be a pure electric midsize car targeted directly at the Tesla Model 3. The automaker hasn't indicated what sort of driving range buyers can expect out of the Polestar 2, but a subscription model wherein one could temporarily trade an EV for a hybrid model for longer trips would help curb the sort of range anxiety that can accompany traditional EV ownership.
So, if the Polestar 1 will be available for purchase when it enters production in mid-2019, what's it likely to cost? An emailed statement from World Media Wire, a marketing agency doing work on behalf of Polestar, gives us some idea: "The target retail price of the Polestar 1, if purchased outright, is 1.3M SEK (130k Euro)." That's the equivalent of $153,000 US, pricing that would put the luxury grand tourer in the same general arena as two other plug-in hybrid
, the Acura NSX and BMW i8, both of which offer less power and far less electric-only range.
Even if the Polestar 1 ends up being offered solely on a subscription basis -- a scenario that seems increasingly unlikely -- examples of the 600-horsepower coupe are still likely to be available for private ownership eventually. After each vehicle's primary -- and likely secondary -- subscription period runs out in four to six years (two- to three-year terms are expected), these vehicles will almost certainly need to be sold off outright.
As Goodman says, "I would think after 6 years that [Polestar 1] becomes a traditional used car in that respect, and then we have to work out what the right way is. If there are people that still want to take out a subscription model on that, then we'll make it available. Otherwise, it might well become a retail [used] vehicle."