With Polestar 2 the “Model 3 Killer” it Begs to Ask What Kind of Brand is Polestar and Can’t this Just be a Volvo?
Polestar COO John Goodman tells Autocar that Polestar 3 will be in the Model 3 segment:
- -The car will be different from the $152,000 range topping 600 HP 100 mi range Polestar 1 PHEV
- -This is the first BEV car in an eventual all electric BEV range except for Polestar 1
- -Based on the 40.2 Concept that gave us the XC40
- -400 Horses 350 mi range
- -Promises that’s the lower “bookend” of performance
- -$39,400 to $65,700 MSRP
- -But that lower bookend begs the question is the bookend high enough?
- -And the lower bookend’s bookmark questions what kind of brand Polestar wants to be?
“We’re a luxury car company, not a performance brand.”
“Lincoln. What a luxury car should be.”
That was Lincoln’s corporate culture back in 1994, and today since nothing’s changed really, and why they’ve been in trouble since the late 60s early 70s, and why they still don’t get it. I’ll explain below at Bonneville with the Mark 8. And so this is why Volvo needs to be careful with Polestar. I look at this reveal for Polestar’s second model, the Polestar 2, and I say, wow. 400 horses. 300 mile range. Not bad. But why can’t this car just be a plain Volvo? Isn’t this what Volvo the house brand needs?
Polestar was supposed to be a performance brand. When Volvo did the debut press release I got the impression they were going to take on not only Tesla as an all electric brand save for their first range introducing opener that’s a hybrid, but also Mercedes AMG as the Volvo AMG of the electrical world. Wow, cool I thought to myself. Instead the Polestar 2 lower “bookend”model sounds like a set up for another luxury brand ready to inflict perpetual self attempted suicide on their brand identity. Think Cadillac and Lincoln as the most glaring examples. Let me explain for those that still don’t get it here by using history.
The Importance of Brand Identity for a Luxury Performance Car
Car makers need to be careful with their brand identity in the age of computer generated models and most especially in the age of electrification. Since computer CAD modeling and wind tunnel tests are making cars all look the same, ask Lincoln and Jaguar that as their front ends look the same and that’s ok for me since they share Ford history, all that’s left beyond the car itself is what comes behind it and the interior.
If I was in charge of a car company, particularly a luxury brand, I’d have every executive, manager, and director study and be tested on the history of the brand, if it‘s about legacy. I’d be looking for the best interior designers because with all the exteriors looking the same the differences that stand out will be inside (are you reading this GM with your crappy plasticky Cadillac interiors, so shameful). To be fair, Lincoln is going in the right direction with those incredible interiors they got from Continental and putting them inside the rest of the range. (I still think they should keep Continental and go upmarket with that to compete with Spur and Ghost starting in the Chinese market but that’s another story.)
Servicing and sales will take a more prominent role, but even service’s role is diminishing greatly as electrification and its reliability gets underway. Electric cars makes this dynamic more complicated, because service departments in say, I’ll be generous to predict 10-20 years from now, after all the certified pre-owned and extended new car warranty people are out of the way, all that’ll be left are the gas remnants and older electrics and their battery and circuitry problems for electrical technicians and engineers at the dealer to handle.
This is What Happens When You Sully or Muddle a Luxury Brand
The most glaring example of sullying brands, and here I go again, is Cadillac and Lincoln. There was a time back in the 1950s it was more prestigious to own and drive either brand than a Rolls Royce. Their prices almost matched. But the Americans were offering things the British were falling short of, and it took the Brits a decade to catch up with the Silver Shadow right through the 70s. And once they whipped out Shadow, they haven’t looked back short of their finances to the point of the VW BMW Era.
I tell people the story of Rolls back in the 50s and they can’t believe it. A Silver Cloud in 1955 didn’t have a V8 auto tranny full power including outside mirrors tilt cruise twilight sentinel etc. It didn’t even have a/c, that dealers had to scramble and have dealer installed units put into the Brit saloons. But it had Connelly hides and fine veneers. Both American brands had all the above and that’s why customers like the Rat Packers, all car nuts, that’s Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy were all seen in the American brands, an occasional European exotic, but it was all about a special order Caddy or Continental, the Lincoln kind, not Bentley.
Look where Lincoln and Caddy are now, it’s almost embarrassing. And if we were British the way they are about car heritage with their car companies, both American brands would be considered a national disgrace. Besides the fact that obviously their executives don’t study their company history, they don’t know what their brand stands for.
Polestar v. Lincoln Luxury v. Performance
So this gets me to Polestar 2018 and Lincoln 1994. Polestar is setting themselves up for this with what looks like a fabulous car, but is maybe better off being a house Volvo, because with electrics if you want to be considered performance, you need at least 500, that’s for gas, I’d say for electrics a minimum of 600-700 horsepower like Polestar 1 is, to be considered inside the performance door.
Brand is important and you wonder if car executives get it. Part of a luxury car is performance. W.O. Bentley’s motto, a racer mind you, was: "To build a good car, a fast car, the best in class." That was for his saloons, not his race cars, OK? This was a 21 year old kid building race cars, raced them, and then when off duty went home from Brooklands, Goodwood, Indianapolis, Monte Carlo, or Mulsanne or Arnage France when he finished racing on the Straight, to build luxury saloons for London Bankers.
The Lesson: The 1994 Bonneville Lincoln LSC
Polestar needs to heed the lesson from the story of the Legendary Lincoln Mark 8 at Bonneville in 1994. The luxury brands need to compete more with each other not just in car sales but also by racing each other. The speed record was held by the legendary Infiniti Q45(another brand now in crisis and an excellent car we’ll never see built that way again). That saloon held the 163 mph Bonneville Flats world record with an unsupercharged gas engine.
One day out of curiosity Lincoln engineers wanted to see if that 210 horsepower (wow for 1994) 4.6 liter V8 they give to us cops to do speeding ticket duty on the Panther platform could hold its own on race duty on the smaller FN10 platform assigned to T-Bird/Cougar and a Lincoln Mark 8 LSC. They took a stock gold 1993 Lincoln Mark 8 recently sold at a Mecum auction earlier this year, and keeping it mostly stock. After some tweaking with the engine and the speed limiter out of course, and brakes, they bumped the compression ratio even higher (runs on hi test) to get 280 HP and they beat the record at 182 mph. The 1995 model’s output in the optional LSC package was bumped to 290 HP.
But word of the test was getting back to headquarters like poison. “They did not want Lincoln to have a ‘racy’ image and refused to use any of what we did out at Bonneville in advertising,” Mr. Jerry Wroblewski, one of the test engineers told Hemmings. When they got back they faced the equivalent of a blue wall of silence and a resolve that Lincoln is a luxury brand, not a performance brand. And they scratch their heads why they have problems even today. So let me put it here plainly: LUXURY IS ALSO PERFORMANCE. THEY GO HAND IN HAND.
If this had been BMW or Mercedes, besides the fact they were bringing a German car onto an American racetrack that would be considered like them winning a WW 2 battle they never fought on our soil, this would have been plastered all over advertising even if it was a SmartforTwo that did the deed. Lincoln chose to bury it. They didn’t get it. They still don’t. This is why the much potential Marks 7 and 8 had limited success that Ford didn’t take that further and why the brand is still flat today. Hey Polestar, are you listening to what your former owners once did?
This is my Expectation When I Buy Luxury
As I approach a more traditional and typical grandfatherly age, (but not quite yet), inasmuch as I once drove at insane speeds to write speeding tickets or a few times off duty back in the day, I really don’t have any intention to ever drive over 100 mph again. But if I ever buy a quality saloon or sports car or a high end all wheel utility estate, be it a Range Rover or Cadillac Escalade, I expect that car to drive over 100 mph on an interstate or the Autobahn. In fact, I want that car to drive faster than most Porsches whether I ever do. It’s what I’m paying for.
And this is why Cadillac, Lincoln, Acura, Infiniti, even times Lexus go through identity crisis to wonder what kind of brand they are and what kind of cars they want to sell. But notice, Mercedes and BMW never have that problem. It’s obvious here, I believe, that Volvo is setting up Polestar for the same situation.
Volvo v. Polestar: Distinguishing the Difference
Volvo always made great cars, but they were always different from other European makes inasmuch as Subaru offers a product a little different than other Japanese. As I’m writing this in fact, I’d say the Polestar upgrade for Volvo is the equivalent of Subaru going all out luxury performance. Some of you following me? So not only must there be a distinction, it needs to be exaggerated to be separate from one another. I’m wondering if Polestar is doing that.
Volvo brand is about safety and comfort more than luxury. But the Swedes were never known to go crazy with horsepower. They’ll put a puffer or a blower on a 4 and 6 cylinder as boosters, but they didn’t start putting 8 cylinders in their cars until the Americans’ insistence when they started making SUVs some 15 years ago. This is one of the reasons actually why they like to import our muscle cars: they don’t make monsters like that there or in China where most Volvos are now made.
If Polestar is making their brand an electric AMG I hope as they are saying for their model 2 that the 400 horses is the starter model but what I’m saying is this is supposed to be about performance. The starter model should be way more than that. And this starter model would be a perfect Volvo branded sedan that could compete with Phantom $35,000 Single Battery Pack Solo Motor RWD Model 3.
I want to see what should be the entry model: Polestar 2 High Performance dual motor RWD or AWD 700 HP. Then we’ll be talking!
We’ll see a proto model at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show this March. Let’s see how this unfolds.
What do you think of Polestar and Polestar 2? Let us know in the comments section.