Jonathan Goodman pointed to Polestar’s “potential to grow substantially” this year
Sino-Swedish brand will launch new 3 electric SUV and double its number of UK retail spaces this year
Polestar beat its targets for UK sales in 2022 by a comfortable margin, selling more than 7000 cars, and boss Jonathan Goodman has said it “could have done more” if it weren’t for supply difficulties constraining volumes.
In the second full year of sales for the Tesla Model 3-challenging Polestar 2 saloon, the electric performance brand achieved an 80% annual sales uptick to reach 7345 units – beating a projection of 6000 and taking the total number of Polestars on UK roads to around 12,000.
Goodman told Autocar that he was excited “to see the EV market up by 40%” (EVs accounted for 16.6% of UK registrations last year) but said it was “equally great to to basically be doubling against the EV market, which I think is a great testimony to the brand”.
Polestar’s steep upward trajectory is one of a select few success stories to come from 2022 sales figures, which broadly revealed stagnation for established European manufacturers as they grappled with supply-chain difficulties, rising energy costs and a wider economic downturn. Dacia, MG and Kia were among the other brands to boost market share and overall volumes in the market last year.
The Sino-Swedish brand wasn’t immune from these headwinds, however, with its order book mounting as demand from UK customers outpaced supply from its factory in Luqiao, China, where Covid lockdowns brought production to a halt for six weeks.
Goodman explained: “We’ve been able to increase the volumes, but I would still say we were a little volume-constrained last year; we could have done more.
“We will come into this year with a very healthy order take and very good perspectives to to grow substantially in 2023.
“That’s just the start. That’s with one car. We will be bringing in the Polestar 3 this year and then more cars to come behind. I think it augurs very well for a very good future for the brand.”
The Polestar 3 is a performance-oriented, four-wheel-drive electric SUV designed to contend with the Audi Q8 E-tron and Jaguar I-Pace in the burgeoning premium crossover segment. Together with the smaller Polestar 4, arriving next year, it has potential to bring about a dramatic boost for Polestar sales globally and in the UK.
Goodman wouldn’t be drawn on precise predictions for the new SUVs’ performances but said: “The UK is a big SUV market, and I think that both the 3 and 4 will cater to that. With the cars on sale now, it’s very encouraging – without us doing any pushing at all, or any marketing, really – to see that the orders are growing. So I think we’re in a very encouraging position.”
Polestar is “not a brand that goes chasing a specific volume”, Goodman responded when asked for a 2023 sales target. “I’ve lived through that in the past with other brands, and it’s not healthy. So it’s about continuing to grow organically and sensibly, rather than forcing an unrealistic volume just because someone dreams up a number in a room somewhere in a foreign climate.”
He did however point to the “potential to grow substantially” this year, not just with the new 3 inbound and the widening of the 2 line-up but also with a significant expansion to the firm’s network of retail ‘spaces’ from three to at least six.
Polestar remains committed to its innovative agency retail approach as its market footprint – and thus brand visibility – increases and is highly unlikely to begin wholesaling cars into dealerships, continuing to favour instead a build-to-order model that works for both retail and business customers, according to Goodman.
He said: “That’s one of the advantages of our relationship with Volvo: we have 110 service points around the UK, so it’s very easy for a customer to get their car serviced. We do home delivery of cars; people like that, and I think we might well broaden that so they can come and pick it up from a from a from a delivery centre.
“I don’t see the business model changing. I don’t see us suddenly starting to wholesale cars into dealers. I think it’s about creating the right demand for the brand and building to order. And yes, it does mean that people are going to have to have to accept that they’re going to wait a few months to get the car as they require it, and I hope that carries on ad infinitum. I hope I never have fields of cars that are sitting there unsold.”
The agency sales model helps Polestar to keep stock levels in check, and at the moment the brand has just “30 or 40 cars, which are online, available pre-configured,” Goodman revealed, suggesting an approximate lead time on new cars built to order of around five months.
“I’d like that to come down a little bit,” he said. “And if our supply gets better, that will probably come down naturally, but there will always be a two or three-month lead time for a Polestar, and I think that’s right. We’re selling premium motor cars; it’s not a bring-and-buy sale.”
Nothing wrong with a little friendly competition
One looming threat for established manufacturers in Europe over the coming two years will be the arrival of competitive new models from Chinese brands including Aiways, BYD, Nio (whose ET5 is pictured above) and Polestar sibling Lynk&Co. However, Goodman theorised that an influx of new contenders could fuel Polestar’s growth, rather than stifle it.
“I don’t spend an awful lot of time looking at what the others are doing,” he said. “We have the cars that we’ve got, we have the exciting developments with [the] Polestar 3 and Polestar 4 and then [the] 5 and 6 behind them coming through. And it’s about us establishing what our brand is all about.
“I welcome more people coming in and putting the focus on EVs. The better news is for me and for Polestar. We’ve just had December’s almost unthinkable volumes – 32% of the EV market – and we’re only seven-and-a-bit years away from the time where there will only be EVs being sold in the UK. So to have more awareness by new brands coming in, I think that’s great news for for us.”
What’s in the Polestar boss’s diary?
March: Polestar Bristol opens
Reps at fourth Polestar UK space will continue to “focus on every single person who walks in the door and give them the best possible treatment”.
July: Goodwood Festival of Speed
“You’ve got nothing but motoring enthusiasts there. Whether they can afford to buy your car or not, just the enthusiasm there for them is a wonderful environment.”
November: Polestar 3 arrives
“It’s a fabulous car. I think people are going to be blown away by it. And I think it’s great for us in terms of positioning the brand.”