Features

The rise of Geely

Barely registering on the evo radar until recently, Geely now controls Lotus and is planning a raft of high-performance cars
under the Polestar name. Time to find out more…

Words by Stuart Gallagher and Adam Towler 

In 30 years, Geely has gone  from making fridges to selling over 400,000 cars a year under its own name, has paid Ford $1.8 billion to buy Volvo (in 2010) and, more recently, acquired a 51 per cent stake in Lotus. And now it is separating the Polestar tuning arm from Volvo to create a standalone, EV-focused performance brand.  Its first product, the Polestar 1 (above), is a 911-sized, 592bhp hybrid GT, to be followed by a range of performance-orientated EVs and hybrids to be built in China and leased globally via an online sales portal: you will only ever lease a Polestar EV, never own one.

Geely also holds the key to the future of Lotus and thus the next Elise. Having steered Lotus to profitability and managed the company’s product on a shoestring since replacing Dany Bahar as Lotus CEO, Jean-Marc Gales knows exactly what is expected of him now the company he lives and breathes has the security, resource and future he has been so focused on achieving since he relocated to Hethel from Peugeot in 2014.

Geely isn’t a name that has often appeared in evo, nor are products under its own name ever likely to. However, the Chinese giant now holds the future of one of the world’s most famous sports car brands in one hand while launching an electric car company with performance at the top of its agenda with the other. In the following pages we take a close look at the Polestar 1 and talk to Gales about what Geely means for Lotus. Because, for people like us, Geely suddenly matters.

Polestar is key to Volvo’s ambition to sell 1 million electric or hybrid cars by 2025

Tree bespoke models, one with 592bhp and 999Nm, over 145 kilometres of pure electric range, Öhlins dampers, a carbonfibre body, and a sales model that will see you subscribe rather than own the car outright… Polestar, recently freed to forge its own brand identity within the Volvo Group, isn’t letting the established methods of running a car company shape its ideas or its ambitions. Volvo’s stated aim is to be a leader in electric car production, with a target of selling 1 million by 2025 and with all new cars built post-2019 to be either electric or plug-in hybrids. And Polestar will play a significant role in this strategy.

Up until now, Polestar has been the performance tuning arm of Volvo, providing upgrades to various models, including the V40 featured on page 45 and the 362bhp S60 and V60 models. Now it’s a standalone brand within Volvo, with deliveries of its first model, the Polestar 1, due to start in 2019, followed by a Tesla 3-rivalling Polestar 2 and a performance SUV in 2020. Future models beyond this inaugural trio will offer either full electric or performance-orientated hybrid powertrains.

The coupe will feature Akebono-made brakes with drilled discs and six-piston calipers

If the Polestar 1 looks familiar, that’s because it first appeared in 2015 at the Frankfurt motor show as the Concept Coupe. The positive reaction to it, followed by a successful drive of a prototype by top brass, sparked the decision to establish Polestar as a separate entity and to launch with the production version of the concept, the 2+2 GT you see here. Built on a shortened version of Volvo’s ‘scalable platform architecture’ first used for the S/V90, the GT has a 320mm cut in the wheelbase, with a further 200mm taken from the rear overhang. At 4.5 metres, it’s the same length as a current 911. Not only does the Polestar 1 measure up to a 911 physically, but it also has on-paper performance to match. It features twin electric motors on the rear axle, powered by a 34kWh battery producing 218bhp. In pure EV mode, the Polestar 1 is a rear- drive coupe with a range of up to 160km and a projected 4.0sec 0-100kmph time.

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