Musk’s antics no threat to EV sector, rival exec says

Australia must improve its electric vehicle charging infrastructure to accelerate its lagging EV take-up, according to the chief executive of major EV manufacturers Polestar, who thinks the sector has largely moved beyond the controversial antics of Tesla chief executive Elon Musk.

Australia has long held a reputation as being a global EV laggard, with adoption trailing most other markets. Consumer adoption has been relatively slow amid concerns about range anxiety, limited charging infrastructure and an initial higher upfront cost of EVs compared to traditional vehicles.

Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath in Las Vegas.
Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath in Las Vegas.Credit: David Swan

Speaking on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Polestar global CEO Thomas Ingenlath said that the answer for Australia’s EV adoption is twofold.

“For charging infrastructure, of course it has to be sufficient and good, and the government has to support that,” the executive said of Australia’s slow EV uptake.

“But what I really believe is that we have the bank on the superiority of the technology and the product. To be successful [in Australia] is clearly to have the more attractive, desirable product, and the Polestar 3 is a sporty, exclusive SUV. When you compare it to a combustion engine, I bloody hope that people will discover how great that electronic propulsion is, and how much fun and how much pride you have to drive that car.

“And in Europe, and in other parts of the world, politicians are making very short-term oriented policy decisions. And of course, that is not very helpful.”

Polestar chief executive Thomas Ingenlath with one of the company’s electric vehicles
Polestar chief executive Thomas Ingenlath with one of the company’s electric vehicles

From a slow start, statistics from the 2023 calendar year show Australians are now starting to buy electric vehicles in record numbers. Electric vehicle sales shot up by 160 per cent from 2022, with 87,430 vehicles sold for the year, accounting for about 7 per cent total market share.

Tesla, BYD and MG were the EV sales leaders in Australia, with Polestar coming in eighth place, behind BMW. Polestar currently sells just one model in Australia, the Polestar 2. The Polestar 3 is set to be available locally from June this year.

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The Swedish electric vehicle maker was founded in 2017 as a joint venture between Sweden’s Volvo Cars and Chinese automotive giant Geely. Its vehicles are largely designed in Sweden and built in China, and are aimed at a luxury segment of the market.

Ingenlath said he does not see Elon Musk’s EV maker Tesla has a direct rival, given Polestar offers higher-end vehicles. The long-range, dual motor model Polestar 2 starts from $76,400 locally.

Musk sparked a fresh round of controversy this week amid reports that Tesla and SpaceX executives are increasingly alarmed about his erratic behaviour, including alleged drug use, which his lawyers have denied.

Ingenlath said despite the repeated and ongoing controversies, the electric vehicle sector had “moved beyond” Musk’s antics.

“It’s partly relevant for us, but generally with Tesla becoming a mass market brand, it’s very clear that Polestar for some people is a nice alternative to Tesla,” he said. “A Polestar is simply not the car that you have seen already 10 times today. And that’s almost more important and what gives an opportunity to us, despite the special extrovert character of Elon.

Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla.
Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla.Credit: Bloomberg.

“I would not deny that, of course, Tesla and Elon Musk have had a very important and influential role in development of the electric car. But I think it’s not defining any more the image of an electric car.”

Ingenlath has held Polestar’s top job since the company’s founding in 2017, joining from Volvo where he served as a senior vice president of design.

When asked about his greatest challenge in leading Polestar, the executive did not cite a singular example.

“What has not been a big challenge? We have been challenged with semiconductor shortages, we had the pandemic, we’ve had two wars right at our front door. These times are challenging, but probably now they are always like that,” he said.

“Establishing a new car brand has been an incredibly tough journey, but then again, proving that it’s possible has been one of the biggest joys in life.”

Polestar is showing off its new and coming vehicles including the Polestar 3 and Polestar 4 in Las Vegas this week, and is announcing an expansion of its partnership with tech giant Google, including the ability to browse the internet using Google’s Chrome browser while the vehicle is parked.

Elsewhere at CES, Kia is expected to showcase three new electric vehicles, while rival carmaker Honda is also expected to reveal a new electric vehicle line-up of its own. Volkswagen meanwhile has announced plans to install OpenAI’s ChatGPT into its vehicles starting in the second quarter of 2024.

David Swan travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of Hisense.

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Source: Thanks smh.com