Currently reading: From the boardroom: Polestar UK boss Jonathan Goodman
Polestar’s UK boss discusses its creation, first year of sales and aims for the future
Jim Holder
News
6 mins read
27 September 2021

Jonathan Goodman is the UK CEO of Polestar and its head of global communications, having played an integral role alongside global CEO Thomas Ingenlath in launching the brand from scratch over the past five years. He has previously held senior roles with a multitude of responsibilities at car companies including the PSA Group and Volvo.

Here, Goodman discusses Polestar’s success to date, why Tesla is its biggest rival and what his expectations are for the future. 

Setting up a new car company is famously difficult. Did you have any qualms when you were asked to be Polestar chief operating officer alongside Ingenlath back in 2017?

 “In truth, it took me about five seconds to decide. After 28 years in the industry, it was a golden opportunity – not just exciting for all the obvious and positive reasons but also a chance to work through all the things that had frustrated me in my career in established organisations, trying to find new ways of working to avoid them.

“It wasn’t an opportunity that I could ever have turned down. The mandate was that we knew the world didn’t need yet another car company doing the same thing, so go out and create one that’s doing it differently. We set out to offer something different, and I think few would argue that we aren’t already achieving that.”

How is Polestar going in the UK so far?

“The short answer is that we’re going really well. For Polestar, this is one of the best-performing countries in the world. There’s a real appetite for EVs in the UK, which has been helped enormously by the [1%] benefit-in-kind taxation, which pushes a lot of business car users to choosing an EV.

“But it’s clear that Polestar’s positioning is working, too. The avant-garde premium design and drivability of our cars has resulted in some incredible press coverage across the board.

“The public’s reaction has also been incredibly strong, as there are around 3000 Polestar 2s on the road today. We’re on track for 4000 deliveries this year and our biggest concern is supply, not demand. That’s a very happy place to be – and ahead of where we wanted to be in terms ofour initial projections.”

Were you always confident of success?

“Well, it would have been lovely if someone had handed us a book called ‘How to Launch a New Car Brand’ four years ago, that’s for sure! Sadly, nobody did.

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“For me, the key was building everything out of our brand guidelines – which are built off three words: pure, progressive and performance – and an absolute certainty that we had to be different. Every car maker thinks its products are beautiful, so launching cars we thought beautiful, while critical, was never going to be enough. We had to be different. 

“Core to that was changing the way that the customer interacts with our brand: we wanted a direct relationship with them, not one through a dealer. We sell directly, with an omnichannel approach that puts the customer in charge of how they interact with us. If they want to do it all online, they can. If they want to talk to an expert on a call, great. If they want to visit a Polestar Space [showroom], we have that. The key is that the relationship is always with us.” 

Is creating the support network actually harder than creating the cars?

“Well, I wouldn’t say either was easy! But I suppose you could say that creating the cars is a challenge that’s more or less the same for every car manufacturer and which is embedded in the DNA of any manufacturer with history. We have that history with Volvo behind us, and that sets us apart from other new brands. 

“Relatively, creating a network is simple compared with creating a car. You set the model and you seek the people who are committed to supporting you to achieve it. It’s very hard work but perhaps not so complex in the scheme of things. 

“So actually, perhaps the hardest bit is making your brand known. You have car companies that have been making cars for more than 100 years. We rocked up last August and started. Growing that awareness is our biggest challenge.” 

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Can it be tricky for a car maker to shine a spotlight on some of the downsides of its own existence? 

“Personal mobility comes at a cost, and we think it’s right to be transparent on that cost. Some of that thinking is down to us being a new challenger brand, of course, but it’s also part of our ethos to challenge everything we do, so why not highlight that? 

“The blunt truth is the industry has a credibility issue, most recently highlighted by Dieselgate. We have a fairly passionate belief that the car industry needs to be far more open with the consumer. We’re open that we want to be a carbon-zero company by 2040 without offset. So let’s be transparent about that journey and highlight why it’s important to us – and be open about the challenges.”

Is Tesla your main rival?

“Quite simply, yes. Polestar and Tesla are the only global pure-EV players in the market. 

“I also have to give them credit. I’ve seen how hard it is to set a brand up even with the support of a car firm that has all the manufacturing know-how in place, plus existing platforms on which to work from. They’ve had it much harder. Then I have to ask if the electric car movement would be where it istoday without Tesla. I doubt it. 

“But we’re not only looking to Tesla. Every electric car maker is a competitor, and the likes of Audi, BMW, Jaguar and so on are very big rivals.” 

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Do customers buy into sustainability?

“No question: they understand and believe fairly passionately that we’ve got to do something to protect the planet, and I think people see electric cars as a potential solution. It’s not the full solution yet. We’ve got to massively reduce the carbon footprint of producing batteries, but customers do believe in that. They know, for instance, that air quality is a massive issue.”

What does success look like for Polestar?

“We have targets, and while I don’t want to shout them from the rooftops, we wantto be a reference in the premium EV market and we will substantially grow our volumes over the years to come, but it’s clear we aren’t here to be a 500,000 cars per year brand.

“We’re an aspirational premium brand, but we don’t want to be a niche brand. We’re a global brand [that will be] present in 18 countries around the world by the end of 2021, and that will expand to 30 by the end of next year. 

“So Polestar will be all about growth in the coming years and lots of it. Will we be the biggest? Never. Will we be one of the best? That’s our intention.”

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