Volvo’s Polestar Targets China as Premium Fight With Tesla Looms

(Bloomberg) -- Volvo Cars’ performance electric-vehicle brand sees China as its greatest opportunity even as it’s set to face stiff competition from Tesla Inc.

The unit, Polestar Performance AB, expects to get as much as half of its sales from the country after it rolls out three models by 2021, said Thomas Ingenlath, the brand’s global chief, at the Guangzhou auto show on Friday. The rest will come from Europe and North America.

The company will face off with Tesla in the world’s largest car market for a foothold in the fast-growing electric-vehicle segment, while major global brands such as BMW and Audi are also joining the fray. Undeterred by Tesla’s head start -- the U.S. rival has been selling autos for years -- Polestar sees buyers of premium electric cars still lacking enough options.

“There is not enough varieties for the customers,” Ingenlath said in an interview.  “At the moment, it’s more about getting enough varieties and offers to the customers to make this electrification attractive.”

Polestar’s initial goal is to produce a combined 50,000 to 100,000 cars a year of its first three models in its factory in Chengdu, China, Ingenlath said. Its first car, the $155,000 Polestar 1 hybrid, is set to begin production in mid-2019.

The following year, the company will bring out its first mass production model, the fully electric Polestar 2 sedan, he said. That puts the vehicle in direct competition with Tesla’s Model 3, which the company is set to build in its planned factory in Shanghai.

For an edge over rivals, Polestar is betting on the production and service networks of Volvo Cars and its parent, Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. Those relationships will help Polestar move more quickly and become profitable faster than other electric-vehicle startups, Ingenlath said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.