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Interview with Polestar boss Thomas Ingenlath

Interview with Polestar boss Thomas Ingenlath
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Z we will meet in the interview Volvo design center in Gothenburg. A gigantic room with a gray floor, a comparatively low ceiling and a meter-long window front. We take a seat on gray designer chairs. The Polestar 1 lingers in front of us as the only decorative item.

Mr. Ingenlath - Steve Jobs had his turtleneck sweater, Dieter Zetsche wears his mustache, and Elon Musk always wants Shoot things into space. What is your trademark?

I don't want to commit myself too much to one style - that would be too much of a cliché for me. For me, it's not the clothes, but the content that makes a CEO modern. Whether someone is wearing a turtleneck, sneakers or a suit doesn't matter to me. As a designer, of course, I have nothing against a fashionable appearance.

When Ingenlath presented the Polestar 1 in Shanghai, he wore a tailor-made suit in mustard yellow. He himself describes the color as 'Swedish Gold'. Today it's a heather gray jacket that goes perfectly with the floor.

At Polestar, however, an elegant appearance is what counts. From a tuning brand to a division for e-mobility - a 180 degree turn. Don't you have to turn everything inside out?

Yes, of course. That's quite a change for a company that comes from the racetrack. Of course, one might ask why we didn't create a completely new brand for it. But there is already a common thread that runs through the entire history.

And that would be?

The emotions and the fun, who wake up when you drive this car. Electromobility and passion, that's a new combination. And the background of Polestar fits in perfectly. E-mobility will no longer be a unique selling point in a few years. Our strategy allows us to stand out from the crowd.

How do you do that?

On the one hand, it's about the obvious things that I do feel that I see. We think about what our product should look like and how we get in touch with customers. But on the other hand, it also depends on the thinking behind it: writing texts, taking photos, making decisions about where we will position our Polestar spaces, what our offer structure will be. Itare a thousand building blocks that make up this brand and on which we are working.

Ingenlath uses many gestures when he talks about the many areas of responsibility that he is now responsible for at Polestar. Sometimes it looks like he wants to draw the words.

The Polestar 2 is said to be purely electric. How many laps can we do on the Nordschleife with this performance car?

We are not interested in lap times. Of course, we could also make the models track-compatible, for example in the chassis setup. But we want to build a car that is especially fun in everyday life.

If AMG were to say that from now on they only built electric cars, it would definitely be many irritate. How are your customers actually reacting to the change?

You are very pleased that we are now really building the 2013 coupé study. The response to this has been phenomenal. And I have the feeling that the question of the drive is not so important at first. The nice thing is that today we don't think as dogmatically as we used to. If I present a car today that is sexy and it happens to have an electric drive, people will try it anyway. And maybe they'll even fall in love with an electric car.

Ingenlath speaks calmly and evenly. In between, he thinks a little longer how to form the sentence further because he lacks the German expressions. Then he uses English descriptions that are obviously easier on his lips.

Have you fallen in love with electric cars?

Very even. It's just an indescribable feeling to be standing at a traffic light, completely silent, with no vibrations or the like. It exudes a very special calm. And then suddenly there is this explosive torque and this unbelievable thrust - a great feeling!

But many people lack the engine sound ...

I can do that although understand. Because of course I also love the sound of a six-cylinder boxer engine. But as nice as the nostalgia and romance we indulge in when we think of these engines - for me they are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

So we should Look to the future, you say?

Absolutely. And that's where people worry too much in my opinion. For example, there is the fear of autonomous driving: Many believe that they will then no longer be allowed to drive a car - of course we are allowed to! We shouldn't always associate modern technology with the fact that everything will be 'cruel' in the future. On the contrary: Let us rather look forward to the opportunities this future offers us. That is exactly the mission of Polestar.

AlsCompetitors to the Tesla Model 3 will bring you the Polestar 2 at the end of 2019 ...

But at this point I would like to make it clear that we don't want to build a Tesla killer. I don't like this martial aspect. It's not about hitting someone, rather it's about joining a movement. We want to bring diversity to an area where there is simply no diversity at the moment.

He pauses for a moment and answers the skeptical request by himself without it being even expressed.

… I don't want to talk about everything flowery now either. Of course, it's also about gaining market share and securing a promising position in this new market, no question about it.

Let's come back to the design of the Polestar 1 back that came from your pen. Did you actually create your own dream car there?

The term “dream car” would be too isolated. In my position as chief designer, I serve a very clear purpose: I designed the Volvo dream car. But between us: When I first saw the Polestar standing in the parking lot between the other cars, I quickly realized that it was in a completely different league than what Volvo had done before. That's why we decided to use it as a dramatic entry point for the Polestar brand.

How do you make the brand cool in the future? Will James Bond soon be driving in a Polestar 1?

We want to explain the technology in a comprehensible way and at the same time deliver an aesthetic pleasure. Even when we talk about things like a battery, we want to inspire excitement. And authentically, without much marketing posturing.

So James Bond will continue to drive the Aston Martin ...

Well, if James Bond himself If I would decide in favor of the Polestar 1 in the future, then of course I wouldn't mind.

He grins and looks at the Polestar 1. Because despite all his modesty, he also knows very well: There is no such thing as a Bond car that is uncool.


Thomas Ingenlath was born in Krefeld in 1964 and studied design in Pforzheim and London. He then held leading positions in the design departments of Audi, Volkswagen (1995–2000) and Skoda (2000–2006). Before he became Volvo's chief designer in 2012, he headed the Volkswagen Design Center in Potsdam for six years.


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