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Polestar 2 Arrives to Challenge Tesla Model 3

Polestar 2 Arrives to Challenge Tesla Model 3
polestar 2; manufacturer images

the polestar 2, the second car from volvo's upstart performance brand, aims to give tesla model 3 shoppers a run for their money. polestar debuted the all-electric, sedan-like hatchback at this week's 2019 geneva international motor show, complete with a roster of tesla-fighting specs.

once production begins in early 2020, polestar — the standalone brand, not to be confused with polestar-branded performance editions on certain volvo models — targets an epa-rated range of 275 miles and an asking price of $63,000 "for the launch edition" of the polestar 2. that's before a maximum federal tax credit of $7,500, an amount for which the electric car's 78-kilowatt-hour battery pack should easily qualify.

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it all means the polestar 2's launch edition could start in the mid-$50,000s after the credit but before any state or local incentives. such pricing rivals a well-equipped model 3, for which the federal tax credit expires — conveniently enough for polestar — on jan. 1, 2020. that's because telsa has exceeded the 200,000 cumulative plug-in sales allowed for the federal credit, a mark volvo and polestar are well short of.

sounds great, right? unlike the polestar 1, a plug-in hybrid coupe, the polestar 2 is a compact hatchback with short overhangs and sedan-like proportions. styling looks decidedly volvo-esque, with led headlight accents akin to the thor's hammer units on many volvos, plus a trunk-spanning reflector that joins c-shaped taillights that look straight off an s60 or s90 sedan. inside, the polestar 2's t-shaped dashboard perches an 11-inch touchscreen ahead of the gear selector, as if someone propped an ipad there. squeeze the accelerator, and the 408-horsepower electric motor sends power to all four wheels for 62 mph in less than 5 seconds — again, competitive numbers with an awd variant of the model 3.

there's just one problem: polestar plans to build the car in china.

as recently as early 2018, that didn't matter. a handful of cars once arrived in u.s. showrooms from the world's most populous country, and the location makes sense for polestar, as chinese automaker zhejiang geely holding has owned volvo since 2010. but trade tensions between the u.s. and china spawned a 27.5 percent tariff on cars imported from the country in mid-2018, up exponentially versus the nominal 2.5 percent tariff previously imposed. unsurprisingly, the value of china-imported vehicles collapsed 65 percent between august and november, according to the center for automotive research, and at least one car — the next-generation, china-built ford focus — cut plans for stateside sales.

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it's unclear whether polestar's pricing accounts for potential tariffs, which are imposed on a given car's invoice price. asked about such considerations, a polestar spokesman did not immediately respond to . the polestar 1 also hails from china, but its $155,000 starting price likely leaves higher margins for volvo to absorb tariff payments. the polestar 2 may not.

if nothing changed, polestar could choose to simply pay the tariff and pass some or none onto consumers. gm does that for the china-built buick envision suv, paying the tariff in the background and "not [passing] any cost along to our customers," spokesman stuart fowle told .

but plenty could change. kristin dziczek, car's vice president of industry, labor and economics, said changes to the rate could happen anytime between now and when the polestar 2 goes on sale.

"change could happen tomorrow — we're in negotiations between the u.s. and china to try to resolve some of these issues now," dziczek told . "cars are on a much longer timeframe than trade pacts, so i think that if you're making plans for two, three years out ... something's got to be resolved by then."

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