Thomas Ingenlath clearly doesn't think the Polestar 2 has gotten its due. 

"Polestar was a one-car company in 2023," the brand's CEO told InsideEVs at the New York Auto Show this week. "The big burden was on the shoulders of the Polestar 2."

Still, he said, "Polestar delivered 54,000 cars [globally] in 2023. That is something that puts us ahead of a lot of EV competitors. Our business will grow this year... that's [going to be] a rare thing in 2024."

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Polestar's challenges lie ahead

2024 is indeed a critical year for Polestar, an EV performance brand spun off from Volvo that has yet to become a household name. With two new electric SUVs coming soon, it hopes it can achieve mass-volume success and convince investors of its viability. 

The drivers of that growth are expected to be the two crossovers that were parked on stage behind Ingenlath when we spoke: the Polestar 3 and Polestar 4. And it's hard to overstate how important both EVs will be to Polestar's long-term viability. 

Polestar 4 In New York

Even if the Polestar 2—a sedan doing battle in an SUV world—managed more deliveries than Lucid or Rivian in 2023, the company still dealt with tremendous headwinds last year and the first part of this one. It had to delay, for the second time, the Polestar 3 flagship crossover due to software issues that also impacted its corporate cousin Volvo. Rental car giant Hertz backed off a big plan to purchase 65,000 Polestar 2s after getting hammered by Tesla repair costs and dropping resale values. Its stock price hit the skids, so much so that Volvo cut its investment in the brand. Analysts, and the financial press, still don't think very highly of its current state. 

While it's Ingenlath's job to be optimistic, in New York he seemed more relieved than anything. The Polestar 3 is due out this summer with a starting price of $73,400. The Polestar 4 starts at $54,900. The order books open in late April, and deliveries are planned for the fourth quarter. Both cars, which should reach far more family buyers than the compact Polestar 2 sedan, should help the brand's dreams for critical mass.

Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath and Polestar Precept Concept

Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath and Polestar Precept Concept

"In order to get to [that] model lineup, in 25 countries where we do business, people forget how long it took Tesla to actually get there," Ingenlath said. "It was a decade before they actually got noticed. As a new brand in the EV sector, you actually have to come to the table a bit faster." 

But critical mass doesn't mean mass appeal, Ingenlath said. There are no plans for cheaper models in the Polestar portfolio, or ones that go below the Polestar 2 in price. 

"The portfolio that we have starts at the Polestar 2 price level and it goes all the way up to you know where 5 and 6 will be," he said, referring to an upcoming sedan and sports car. "The mass market is not our market." 

Driving the Polestar 3 on a frozen lake

He added, "If you go there, fine, but it's a completely different game. You have to be clear about the nature of your company. And for us, it's that premium, exclusive, performance segment."

Ingenlath is very clear that he envisions Polestar as a performance brand, specifically calling out BMW's M division and Porsche. That's especially tough competition, particularly as both German automakers are doing surprisingly well in the EV game right now.

But Ingenlath said that's a key part of how Polestar differentiates itself from Volvo, with which it shares some manufacturing facilities, technology and components. And he says the brand can pull it off.

"The Polestar 3's [center of gravity] is as low as a Polestar 1," he said, referring to the brand's original grand tourer hybrid coupe. "Scandinavian design, but much more techy, much more driver-oriented, much more on the performance side. Very different from where the core brand values of Volvo are."

Driving the Polestar 3 on a frozen lake

Telling the two brands apart can be a challenge, and even people inside both Scandinavian car companies don't always have a great answer to where one begins and the other ends.

But Ingenlath said that the parent company of both, Chinese conglomerate Geely, is sticking with the two brands in North America long term. Some skeptics have wondered if that was still the case, considering the U.S. tour that just happened with another Geely brand, Zeekr.

"I have the certainty that Geely is very committed to the Polestar brand," Ingenlath said, likening it to Volkswagen operating similar divisions like SEAT and Skoda in Europe.

Polestar 3 Production In Chengdu, China

Still, Polestar is developing workarounds for the increasing political tensions between the U.S. and China that may lead to stricter tariffs on those cars, even ones made in Mexico. The Polestar 2 is built in China, but the Polestar 3 will be built in South Carolina soon and the Polestar 4 will be made in South Korea. It's why Ingenlath said he's less than worried about political headwinds in the U.S. that may not favor EVs after the November election. 

"This is about jobs in the U.S. that we provide, and I think that's something that any politician should keep in mind," he said. 

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