Ever since the Tesla Model S showed that the market for premium electric cars is bigger than even Tesla had expected, there's been talk of competition coming for the California-based automaker. But of all the premium electric cars labeled with the already-tired "Tesla Killer" name, none is gunning so directly for the heart of the newcomer's business as the new Polestar 2 electric sedan that was just unveiled by the former Volvo performance brand. Everything about this car, including the performance, the pricing, the novel brand, the nontraditional sales and service model, and even the name put Tesla's Model 3 directly in the Polestar 2's sights.
The 2 is the first pure electric vehicle built on the Volvo Compact Modular Architecture that underpins the XC40, as well as the Lynk & Co brand vehicles. A 78 kWh LG Chem battery pack is set to deliver 408 HP and 487 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels, giving the 2 a 0-60 time of under five seconds and a 275 mile EPA range target. An available performance will up the 2's handling potential, with Öhlins dampers, Brembo brakes, 20-inch wheels, and stickier rubber. The 2 will also feature the first native Android infotainment system, with all the Google Maps, apps and assistant features you'd get in a Google phone on the car's 11-inch touch screen.
Like Tesla, Polestar will launch the 2 with a top-of-the-line Launch Edition starting at $63,000 and will make more affordable versions available over time, with prices eventually reaching the $40,000 range. This car is not burdened with Tesla's mission to deliver a $35,000 price point, however, and as a result, production should top out at around 50,000 units per year (all built in China) compared to the Model 3's planned 500,000 units per year. Polestar's small, Tesla-like showrooms will, in fact, be franchised dealerships, but you will still be able to buy the car online and all service will be done through remote pick-up and drop-off.
I've long hated the "Tesla Killer" sobriquet because it implies that a single car can singlehandedly take down a company, which is something that basically never happens. The Polestar 2's 50,000 unit production volume certainly won't kill the Model 3 singlehandedly, but the car and the surrounding strategy do show something that Tesla should be extremely scared of: established automakers starting to adopt the attributes that have made Tesla so unique. Unburdened by a big established brand or settled ways of doing things, Polestar is picking the elements of Tesla's product and ownership experience that people like most—punchy electric performance, avant-garde aesthetics, smartphone-inspired interiors, boutique showrooms, online sales and remote service—and welding them to proven, well-validated Volvo underpinnings and operational know-how. If they can replicate even a significant portion of the Tesla experience without all the startup-y warts, it's only a matter of time before Tesla's once-impenetrable mystique starts to fade.
Watch the live Polestar 2 global unveling here: